It was the longest unbeaten streak the Black Hawks had had in years. And it looked as if the major's Yanks were done for. But lo! the very next night the New York Rangers came to their rescue by winning a game. It was almost unavoidable: they were playing their neighbors, the New York Americans. The major immediately scheduled his Yanks for the next and last home game against the Boston Bruins.
The debut was poorly timed. When McLaughlin announced his all-American splash, one of the best-beloved players in hockey, Howie Morenz of the Montreal Canadiens, was in a hospital unsuccessfully fighting for his life. Morenz was a towering figure in hockey; he had not only speed, power and an enormous talent, but a gentleness on the ice and off that had won every fan's heart. In a game late in January against the Black Hawks one of Morenz' skates got stuck in the boards. A powerful Chicago defenseman tripped over the trapped Montrealer, breaking his leg and sending him crashing headfirst to the ice. Morenz was rushed to a hospital where he died some weeks later. Human nature being what it is, the Canadians in the National Hockey League illogically placed the blame on Chicago.
When the Chicago owner announced his plan to field an all-American team, Canadians all over the U.S. reacted accordingly. Lester Patrick, then boss of the New York Rangers, sent a wire to the president of the NHL, Frank Calder, protesting the use of "amateurs" in NHL competition. Jack Adams, then manager of the Detroit Red Wings, sent a wire protesting the use of U.S.-born players when the exact standings of the teams were yet to be determined. Art Ross, boss of the Boston Bruins, confined himself to suggesting that the Black Hawks refund all their income from the game in which the Yanks played—and then that the league strip McLaughlin of his franchise.
The Bruins themselves were not so gentle. "The first night, right off the bat, this guy comes down the ice and shoves his stick right in my face," says Klingbeil. Ike had been tutored in these niceties by the Canadians on the Black Hawks and so he reacted predictably: "I jumped on him and got him down on the ice and got my gloves off and got in a couple of good licks at him." Otherwise, the results of the Yankee debut were pretty much as expected. The score was 6-2 for Boston, and most newspapers in Chicago accepted the result with the murmuring verities usually uttered on the demise of someone dear but not quite desirable. "The Yanks did their best, overcoming their lack of technical skill by plenty of fight and the old college try," said the Chicago Daily News.
Only a clamorous tabloid, the Chicago Times—long since absorbed by other papers in Chicago—dared to be critical. "The Bruins had a swell time," wrote Columnist Marvin McCarthy. "They toyed with the puck like wicked tomcats slapping a mouse around. They appeared capable of scoring many more goals than they did...."
In their second game the Yanks were to play in Toronto, where the fans figured they stood a better chance. The first time the Maple Leafs came over the boards against the Yank lineup there was a great gasp of anticipation; when they left the ice, there was an enormous deflation. For Toronto had been unable to score against the Yanks for one whole period and, indeed, the Yanks even wound up scoring a goal themselves. To be sure, the Black Hawks lost the game, but the score was only 3-2, and there was an uneasy suspicion that perhaps McLaughlin's plan was not just a stunt after all. And that perhaps Canadian manhood was in danger.
That game built self-confidence in the Yanks, and for their next game they went to New York to give Les Patrick and his Rangers a bit of what for. The Black Hawks beat the Rangers 4-3 and, though the Yanks did not do better than get a couple of assists, they surprised the New Yorkers with their poise. "Major McLaughlin's plan may not be so farfetched as originally believed," wrote Joe Nichols in The New York Times.
On that surprising note, the Yanks went on—to disaster. They loitered in New York long enough to play the Americans, a team that the Hawks had beaten 9-0 and 5-1 during the course of the season. This time the Hawks fell apart: they lost 9-4. The 13 goals made the highest combined score of the season. The Hawks hurriedly left for Boston where they lost quickly and quietly—the Chicago newspapers didn't cover their hockey team's road games—by a 6-1 score.
That ended the season of 1937—and the brave experiment. But Major McLaughlin was far from finished. The next year—without fanfare and without arousing anybody's antagonism—he built a team that was more than half American and hired an American coach, Bill Stewart, to run it. He still had Karakas in the goal. He had other Americans—-Doc Romnes and Roger Jenkins and Alex Levinsky—on the roster, occasionally or otherwise. To these he added others, among them Cully Dahlstrom, Carl Voss, Virgil Johnson and Louis Trudel. The hiring of an American to guide them merely insured the Yanks would have a place on the team.
"So all we did was go out and win the Stanley Cup," says Johnny Gottselig.