Skip to main content

Al Suomi

Though he had a Finnish name, Al Suomi was a rare American player in the National Hockey League back in the 1930s.

In fact, Suomi owed his NHL stint to an ill-fated experiment by the Chicago Black Hawks back then - to try to ice an all-American team to win the Stanley Cup. It did not work so well.

Suomi was from a hard working family in Eveleth, Minnesota. When his chores and homework were done, Suomi played hockey every chance he could get. He never really dreamed of playing professionally, but he was a star at high school.

Suomi got a very unexpected offer in 1934. He was approached by a complete stranger who introduced himself as a hockey scout named Jack Manley. Manley asked Suomi if would be interested in turning pro and playing in Chicago.

Given that it was the Great Depression and jobs were scarce and money was scarcer, Suomi figure he had nothing to lose. Within an hour he said good bye and to his family, packed some clothes and was on a bus heading to Chicago.

No, it was not the Chicago Black Hawks. Not yet, any way.

It was all part of a marketing scheme put on by the Curtis Candy Company. They had a semi-pro hockey team called Chicago Baby-Ruth - obviously named after the candy bar. The team would play before all Chicago Black Hawks home games, pretty much as a skating advertisement for candy.

That allowed other scouts to notice Suomi. Next season he was off to Detroit to play pro in the Michigan-Ontario Hockey League. He would also get to tryout for USA's 1936 Olympic team, though he was ruled ineligible due to his pro status.

By 1936 Suomi had moved to Denver, Colorado, taking a job to help build a rink and then play for the new team. However Suomi would never play in Denver. Before the ice was set the Chicago Black Hawks had invited Suomi to tryout for the National Hockey League team.

All of this sounds a little like some feel-good story on the Hallmark Channel, but it was all true. Although it turned out Suomi might have been used by the Hawks in another market scheme of sorts. He finished the season in Chicago as the Hawks eccentric owner Major Frederick McLaughlin vowed to ice a team of all-American players.

Suomi lasted just five games, while the Hawks red-white-and-blue scheme did not last much longer. The media ripped the Hawks at every chance, while the Canadian players on the other teams in the league took special interest in feasting up on the Hawks.

Al stayed in Chicago, playing for an arena hockey league team called the Hornets until 1940. Aside from a brief stint as a referee, that was the end of Suomi's days on the ice.

Suomi was a very handy fellow, and found a lot of work during the World War II years and beyond as welder, electrician and a labourer. He later founded Al's Hardware, which is still open in Chicago and run by his children.

Suomi lived until 2014, passing away a month before his 101st birthday.


Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M