Sunday, August 24, 2014

52 Ancestors: The Road To The NHL - John Osborne 'Jack' Filkin

When last we left our intrepid hero, Jack Filkin had finished the 1927-1928 hockey season on a high note as a member of the York Bible Class hockey team that won the city of Toronto championship. (click here to read Part 1)

Based on an assemblage of newspaper clippings, collected by one of Jack’s brothers, it is recorded that for the 1928-1929 hockey season, the now 23-year old Jack found a place on the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company team in the old Toronto Mercantile Senior League, a tough industry based league of teams representing a number of companies from around the city. 

Jack’s skating ability, stick handling, and even a deft scoring ability did not go unnoticed.

Lester Patrick, the legendary coach and general manager of the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League came calling. So, according to border crossing records, on October 23, 1929, Jack was off to Springfield, Massachusetts and the training camp of the New York Rangers, then a fairly new NHL franchise.

Jack toiled for coach Lester Patrick (inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1947) and played with Frank Boucher (inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958) and Earl Siebert (inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1963) along with other hockey greats of the era.

Ultimately, Jack Filkin did not make the New York Rangers team (and is listed on the New York Rangers team website as having “missed the cut”) but was sent to the team’s Canadian-American Hockey League professional farm team, the Springfield (Massachusetts) Indians. The team is said to have derived its name from the Indian Motorcycle Company that manufactured the famous motorcycle in Springfield.

Back home in Orillia, Ontario, Jack’s hockey success did not go unnoticed and in an undated newspaper clipping probably from the Orillia area, the following headline and article appeared,

Jack Filkins Playing Professional Hockey in Springfield, Mass.

Was Popular Player With Orillia Intermediates.

“Jack Filkins once the idol of the Longford team that captured the trophy in the OWL league, and later a popular star on the Orillia Intermediate team, is now playing the professional game with Springfield, Mass. Jack was a chemist at the Longford Standard Chemical Co., and made a great hit with the fans during 1925-26-27. In 1928 and 1929 he played for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Toronto, in the Mercantile league. He plays a good brand of hockey and the fans are not at all surprised to see him crashing the professional ranks.

There is no doubt but that Jack will make good. He has a world of speed, is a clever stick-handler and has one of the most terrific shots ever seen on local ice. Playing hockey, as he has, from his earliest days, he has developed a pair of wrists that are the envy of all those who like to get verve into their shots on goal. His sense of direction is acute and very few of his shots go wide of the mark.”


Jack Filkin in his playing days, abt. 1930 (Original photo privately held)

One family story held that Jack did play in one NHL game but that does not appear to be true. Rather, Jack did play one game against an NHL team!

Before training camp broke for the New York Rangers and their farm team the Springfield Indians, the two teams faced off against each other. On a night in early November 1929, the game, according to sports reporter Victor N. Wall, offered “Springfield hockey fans their first peep at the young hockey stars imported from Canada to play with the Indians, their first glance at the New York Rangers, one of the outstanding clubs in the big league, and their first chance to see the changes in the rules.” One of the most significant rule changes made in hockey was introduced that year, the ability to make a forward pass.

The Spingfield Indians were coached by Frank Carroll who told reporter Wall, “I want to give Springfield fans every chance to see these youngsters and that’s why I am placing an entirely new team on the ice at the start. To show that I want this to be a really new team I am sending Filkin, a left handed shot, in at right wing.” Of course, what Frank Carroll didn’t mentioned was that his right winger Jack Filkin had an unusual talent, the ability to shoot both left handed and right handed. In an era of straight hockey sticks, with no curve or warp in the stick blade, this was an effectively deceptive weapon.

The 1929-30 hockey season was not great for Jack and his Springfield Indians team. At that time, professional hockey teams played a season consisting of only about half the number of games currently seen in the pro leagues. Springfield amassed a losing record of 14 wins, 23 losses and 2 ties, finishing 5th in the standings and out of the playoffs. 

Jack Filkin scored one goal, assisted on one other, and accumulated 30 penalty minutes while playing in 34 of the team’s 39 regular season games. It is likely that Jack, a regular on the team, missed five games due to injuries.

Following his less than stellar pro rookie season, Jack’s career was to be influenced by two great events: the Great Depression and Jack got married (not that getting married and the Great Depression should be viewed as being related to each other).

In the next post, Jack becomes a Millionaire!