Every Friday I answer my mail bag in "Ask The Hockey History Blogger." Feel free to ask me your hockey questions at email@example.com.
Did John Wayne play hockey?
At first this seems like a silly question. The Duke on skates? I could just see him taking out some unsuspecting defenseman in the corner and then saying "Keep your head up, Pilgrim."
Yeah, right. Complete folly.
Then how do you explain this photo?
Hey! It's John Wayne playing hockey!
It turns out John Wayne did not play hockey, nor, by the best of reports I can dig up, did he skate.
But in 1937 he did make the movie Idol Of The Crowds where Wayne starred as retired hockey star Johnny Hanson. in order to make money to enlarge his chicken farm Hanson returns to the game and leads his team into the championship series. Just before the series starts, he is offered a bribe to throw the games but refuses, which leads to an attempt on his life.
It's the sports world vs. the underworld. Or, better put, according to an IMDB.com user, "Its the typical 'small-town-boy-does-good, has-a-brush-with-gangsters, but-emerges-with-the-girl-unscathed' story of its era."
Interestingly, this movie also features Billy Burrud acting as Bobby, Johnny's brother. The Hanson Brothers! It is said that Nancy Dowd, script writer for Slap Shot, borrowed the Hanson name for the more famous set of Hanson brothers!
And now you know the Duke, John Wayne himself, acted as one of the original Hanson brothers!
UPDATE: Last year I talked about John Wayne playing hockey for the 1937 movie Idol of the Crowds. Much of the movie has shown up on YouTube:
Here's a quick listing of the 6 segments on YouTube:
Hi Joe, I actually picked up this movie on ebay while doing research for Clancy with the Puck. It had some great reference for equipment and uniforms of the era, but as for The Duke's skating...yikes. There are a few scenes were he has to showoff his 'ability' on the rink...the actors playing the other players were actual players, and they basically just stood around or moved reeeaaal slow when near John in order to make him look good. Funny stuff.
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