Johnny Gottselig

Although many history books list Johnny Gottselig as being born in Calgary,. Alberta or Winnipeg. Manitoba, he was actually born in Odessa, Russia. So how did this confusion transpire?

Gottselig's family moved to the Canadian prairies when he was just an infant. Later on in life. as his hockey career progressed to the point where he was constantly crossing the Canadian/American border to play in the National Hockey League, he would often create great delays since he declared his birthplace as being Russia. At that time relations between the Soviet Union and the Americans were beginning to thaw as a prelude to the Cold War, hence the reason why Johnny was of interest to American authorities. Eventually Johnny realized that it would be a whole lot easier to filled out his border crossing papers as being born in Canada.

This makes Gottselig the first born Russian player in the history of the National Hockey League, although he was raised and trained completely in Canada. Likewise, when he later became head coach of the Chicago Black Hawks, he became the first European head coach in the NHL, again with an asterisk.

Gottselig the player was a nifty skater and puck handler, and a noted penalty killer who liked to rag the puck. He was respected around the league as a creative left winger "who could make a fool out of you if you didn't watch him closely." He'd probably compare nicely to a modern day Slava Kozlov.

After helping the Regina Pats win the Memorial Cup in 1924-25, Gottselig joined the Chicago Blackhawks in 1928. It was the first of 18 years with the Hawks as a player. In total he played in 589 games, picking up 176 goals and 371 points.

Gottselig was a big part of Stanley Cup wins in 1934 and 1938. During the 1938 post-season he led all scorers with eight points in ten games. The following season he scored a career best 39 points and was named to the NHL second all-star team.

He would coach the Hawks for 3 years and later served as their publicity director and worked on the radio broadcasts. He would eventually leave hockey to become an executive with Stone Construction, a manufacturer of concrete pipes.

Like many prairie players of his era, Gottselig's other passion was baseball. In 1942 Gottselig was instrumental in the formation of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, the brain child of Chicago based Philip K. Wrigley, the chewing gum mogul. Gottselig's contacts back in softball-hotbed Saskatchewan led to many Canadian girls joining the four team league, notably Mary "Bonnie" Baker, All-Star catcher for the South Bend Blue Sox. Gottselig himself was the first manager of the Racine Belles in 1943, leading the team to the AAGPBL's first championship. He later managed the Peoria Redwings and the Kenosha Comets.


Anonymous,  9:52 PM  

Great article. Johnny is my great Uncle. It is an honour to read about him. Thank you to whoever wrote and posted this article.

Anonymous,  9:32 PM  

Whoo! So i do have some national family history. My great grandpa was Johnny's brother. His descendants are alive and well in Saskatchewan.

Anonymous,  6:34 AM  

Also my grandfather's(clayton) uncle. Hope the hawks do well against the local flames!

goaltender 3:16 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike9 8:47 PM  

Johnny was my great grandfather's brother. They were from Russia and settled in Canada where my grandmother was born. She eventually married my grandpa Joseph Schneider and they lived in Detroit where I was born and raised. If anyone else has accurate family information I'd be interested in hearing from them.

Unknown 11:15 AM  

Johnny was also my great uncle. I am from Saskatchewan. I remember when he would bring his hunting buddies from Chicago to join my dad in hunting excursions around the old homestead and our family farm. I loved listening to their stories!! I would like to talk to anyone else that is related or has other family information!!

Anonymous,  10:11 PM  

I remember Johnny Gottselig, a very handsome and nice man. His daughter Linda Gottselig, was my best friend at Sacred Heart School, in Chicago. I saw her quite a few years ago, a beautiful girl and looks alot like her dad. Last I knew she lived in Salem Mass. I would love to reconnect with her. f anyone knows where she is, please email me at Thanks.

Anonymous,  9:59 PM  

He was my great uncle. I have his jersey from the '38 season hanging in my room. Thanks for the article.

Ron 7:45 PM  

Another story of Johny can be seen on the Regina Pats Alumni site: Check on following:

Meaghan,  7:22 PM  

I'm Johnny's great-great niece from Nova Scotia. My grandpa Wilfred was his nephew. It's interesting to see all of the relatives I've never met posting on this page :)

Lynn,  7:48 PM  

Johnny Gottselig was also my great uncle. He was my Dad's uncle and God father. I never met Uncle Johnny but I met his sister Sabina who lived in Victoria in 1986. I currently live in Balgonie, SK.

Meaghan you grandpa Wilfred was my dad's brother (Albert). Uncle Wilfred was killed by a round hay bale driving home for the US. He was a great golfer known to Reginias by "Lefty".

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