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August 01, 2015

Frank Jerwa and Joe Jerwa

Frank Jerwa
Joe Jerwa
Bankhead, Alberta is a famous ghost town nowadays. Just minutes from popular Banff in one of Canada's most visited national parks, it is a popular stop with tourists with many remains and an interpretive trail.

At one time the Canadian Pacific Railway operated a coal mine here. It was also the site of the first anthracite mine in Canada.

The railway shut down the mine in 1922, not so suspiciously just two months after a labour dispute cut into the operations' profitability. The town was effectively dead over night, and the 1000 residents dispersed mostly across western Canada.

One of the families affected was the Jerwa family. They moved not far, down the road to the now-bustling community of Canmore. By 1926 both their sons, Joe and Frank, were starring for the Canmore Miners junior hockey team. Both would make it to the National Hockey League.

Joe was older and bigger, and apparently born in near Warsaw, Poland. Sources suggest the family emigrated to Canada and settled in Bankhead in 1913. Yet Frank, who was born in 1909, has Bankhead as his place of birth. Mind you, Joe often said the same, too. It was easier to cross the border and work in the United States if you told border crossing guards that you were Canadian and not born in Eastern Europe. Tensions from World War I still lingered for quite a long time.

Frank was the younger of the two. Both would grow into large men, certainly by NHL standards back in those days. Joe, the defenseman, was more aggressive than Frank, the forward, though both knew how to use their size to protect the puck and create opportunities for themselves. Frank was also noted for his heavy shot.

After a brief appearance with the Regina Pats junior team, Frank joined Joe out west with the Vancouver Lions of the Pacific Coast Hockey League.

By the 1930s these hardy boys were off to the pros, but in separate directions, at least to start. Joe went out to the New York Rangers and Frank to the Boston Bruins. The Bruins jumped at the chance to reunite the brothers in 1932, trading Rod Beattie to the Rangers for Joe. But over the next several years Joe rarely got a shot to play with the Bruins. Frank did more so, totalling 65 games over four years.

By mid decade both brothers were heading in different directions again. Frank would briefly play with the relocated Ottawa Senators franchise in St. Louis, but was then off to the minor leagues. Soon he would head back out west to continue playing in Vancouver.

Joe found himself finally finding NHL employment with the New York Americans for four seasons. He added another three with Cleveland in the AHL before retiring in 1942.

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