May 16, 2015

Pete Bessone

Pete Bessone's path to the National Hockey League was one of the more unlikely roads travelled.

Bessone's NHL career consisted of just six games with the Detroit Red Wings in the 1937-38 season. He picked up one assist and six penalty minutes. He went on to a long career in the minor leagues, despite a heart ailment that, at the time, saved him from military duty even though it looked like his hockey career would end. But he returned to the ice and was an AHL fan favorite with Pittsburgh and Cleveland, where cementing his reputation as a tough as nails defenseman.

Bessone was dubbed "the Massachusetts' Mauler" because of his aggressive play and the fact that he was born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He starred in football, baseball and hockey at West Springfield High School. His brief appearance in the NHL was unlikely enough as very few American players made it to the NHL back then.

But far more unusual is that Bessone's NHL career was pre-dated by five seasons of senior level hockey played in France (where he was often referred to as Pete Besson). Statistical records are a little sketchy at best, but Bessone played for a number of French teams in many tournaments between 1931 through 1936.

France has never been much of a power on the ice, and especially was not back then. Bessone was a cult hero over there, as he was the main gate attraction wherever in France he played. He was dubbed the "Babe Ruth of hockey in Paris."

Bessone also represented the United States at the 1934 World Championships, taking the silver medal behind only Canada. He scored two goals in the semi-final game vs. Germany.

Bessone returned to Europe following his playing days, coaching in France, Switzerland and Italy. He returned to America to coach in Springfield, but would be out of the game entirely by 1950.

He lived in Springfield most of the rest of his life, and moved to Florida in retirement. In 1989 he passed away at his daughter's house in Irvine, California when he suffered a heart attack. He was 76 years old.

Pete Bessone was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.

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