Guest blogger: George Grimm

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Emile’s Glove Story

By George Grimm

The equipment that goaltenders use has undergone quite a few style and design changes through the years. The pads and gloves are lighter and certainly more colorful than they were just a few decades ago. But the biggest changes occurred in the late 1940’s. Before then goalkeepers wore basically the same type of gloves as forwards and defensemen. But then Emile “The Cat” Francis came up with a better idea.

Emile didn’t like the catching glove that was being used at the time. So since he played a lot of baseball during the off season, he asked his trainer to take a first baseman’s mitt to the shoemaker and have him sew the cuff of a regular hockey glove onto it. And the rest as they say, is history.

I’ll let Emile tell the story:

“I used that glove for about a year and a half and nobody said anything. But we were playing in Detroit and King Clancy was the referee. In those days the game was at 8 o’clock and we were on the ice at 7:45 and you’d warm up for 15 minutes and then they’d start the game. So Jack Adams, the Detroit coach and general manager and Clancy are pointing down at me. I’m thinking there’s no goal judge. But I look behind me and there’s a goal judge and I wonder what the hell are they pointing at?

“So Clancy comes over and says ‘let me see that glove you’re wearing. What is this?’  So I said, ‘what do you mean what is this? –  it’s a glove.’ Clancy says, ‘You can’t use that’.  ‘What do you mean I can’t use it?’ He say’s ‘it’s too big.’ I say ‘it’s a trapper mitt, George McQuinn Model, he played for the Yankees. I put a cuff on it.’ He says ‘Well you can’t use it.’ I said ‘King If I can’t use it you don’t have a game.’ He says ‘what are you talking about?’

“I said ‘that’s the only glove I’ve got. I’m not gonna use a players glove to play goal with. If I can’t use that I don’t play.’ So he asks me ‘where are you going next?’ I said Montreal. He says ‘Good I’m gonna call Clarence Campbell. He can decide what you’re gonna do with that glove.’

“So I had to go see Campbell and he had been a colonel in the army and on the Nuremberg trials, he was questioning me like I was on trial for killing people. ‘Where did you get that glove, how much did you pay for it, who put that cuff on?’ He questioned me for an hour. He asked me ‘why did you want this kind of glove?’

“I told him ‘look at the goalkeepers gloves, they’re stupid. They’ve got this little web between your thumb and forefinger so you’re catching everything in the palm of your hand, I won’t last two  seasons playing goal with those kind of gloves. I need something to protect my hand.’

“But what I didn’t tell him was that when I got that puck in that trapper mitt, it didn’t get out. I played baseball as a shortstop, but I knew that the trapper would hold the puck. Goalkeepers used to knock the puck down. Not me. With that first baseman’s mitt it stayed in there. The mistake I made was that two days after my meeting with Campbell, word got out and within 30 days CCM and Rawlings came out with trapper mitts designed after what I had done, I should have put a patent on it, but I never thought about it. I was just trying to prove my point because I was small and my glove hand was the biggest part of my game. I probably didn’t know what a patent was in those days.”

But Emile didn’t stop there. His next innovation was an early prototype of the blocker glove.

“Well here’s what happened,” he said. “I went to the Chicago Black Hawks and we had a trainer by the name of Eddie Froelich and he’d been the trainer for the New York Yankees for 20 years all through the days of Joe McCarthy. When baseball season was over he’d come and work for the Black Hawks. So I got hit on my right wrist, which was the blocker side and they thought it was broken, but it wasn’t. I said to Eddie, ‘we have to get some protection on that right side.’ And so he came up with these pads that were like a sponge, three-quarters of an inch thick and he’d tape it on my glove. But I got hit a couple of more times and I told Eddie that the sponge won’t work.

“So we sat down and talked about it to see what we could come up with. We started with a half inch thick piece of felt the width of the glove and made inserts in it so we could strap it to the glove. So Eddie says that the best protection you could have would be to get the knee cap off a shin guard. So we got a knee cap off and he got a guy to sew it on the back of that felt. That’s what we came up with and I used that all the years that I played. Now it wasn’t nearly as good as what they have now but it was still better than what we had before. And the league didn’t give me any problems. I guess they figured after the first go around they better leave me alone.”

So there you have it. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but Emile Francis is indeed the father of the modern goaltenders gloves.

George Grimm currently writes the Retro Rangers column for Insidehockey.com.

 

 

 

 

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59 Comments

  1. love it – need more stories like this one to keep us going on these dark October nights with no hockey.

  2. LW

    Playing in English Hockey League (boy, that sounds hella funny!) anybody can score goals. Btw, do you have the leagues phone number? Maybe i can get a contract, too…

  3. Good morning, boneheads!

    Thanks for doing this, George. Really great story. And well written.

  4. Morning Carp and other various heads.
    Hi ilb, thanks for the info as well as the kind words. I’ll keep you posted!
    Great read George.

    Carp you doing another Yankee chat tonight?

  5. Good morning, Carp!

    I forgot to mention on Monday that in addition to it being my 26th bday it was also the anniversary of my first post on here. Four crazy years with you knuckleheads…

  6. CCCP – having watched many British National League Games and Elite League games over the years i can vouch for Tostitos – he WILL score goals over here.
    History suggests these 4th liners are good for a point every other game, although 4th liners these days are better skaters than their 2004 counterparts so who knows

    During the last lockout we had a few guys in the EIHL:
    Wade Belak – 17pts in 42 games with Coventry Blaze
    Eric Cairns – 10pts in 34g for London Racers
    Nick Boynton – 8pts in 19g for Nottingham Panthers
    Ian Moran – 9pts in 19g for Nottingham Panthers
    Scott Nichol – 28pts in 24g for London Racers
    Rob Davison – 15pts in 50g for Cardiff Devils
    Steve McKenna – 21pts in 49 games for Nottingham Panthers (yes, the ex-Ranger and Sandy McCarthy linemate)

    We also had a few play in the 2nd tier BNL: Jamie McLennan, Brendan Witt and Chris McAllister – but they only played a handful of games.

    If you can imagine the EIHL plays in front of crowds up to 7000 at the National Arena in Nottingham or 5000 in Belfast or 2500 in Coventry, but sometimes as low as 500 in the less popular venues like Hull, Dundee or Fife.

  7. I don’t know about you fellas, but I personally get a high from the blast of ice cold Winter air once you get out onto 7th Avenue after a Blueshirt victory. Someone please tell me how I can get a high like that with no hockey this year. PLEASE, SOMEONE TELL ME!

  8. Staal, Chad Jennings is doing the chat tonight … I have to actually do work.

    I dare say, Chad’s chat will be a bit more serious and baseball-related, and less g(j)ibberish and immaturity and sarcasm.

  9. We need to give them a few lessons on g(j)ibberis though…Some of their attempts are amateur-hour at best…Where is eddie3?

  10. I was wrong about Ichiro. I want this guy re-signed. The guy is amazing, the guy is a hero. He said, after only being a Yankee for a month, and Im paraphrasing here “When I’m on my deathbed one day, I’ll remember the honor it was to play for the Yankees.” Amazing stuff. He gets it. He understands what it means to wear the Yankees pinstripes. The greatest, most charitable, most honorable organization in world history.

  11. Carp, that’s why I tuned in for all the gibberish etc. I don’t want to be serious when it comes to baseball…it is after all…just baseball…

  12. Speaking of ultimate g(j)ibberish…Apparently they are discussing ice conditions during their meeting today.

  13. Are the Rangers going to TV air their games as they did last year, if and when the season resumes?

    I got to see all of their games last year, and I sure would like to know that they’ll be comin round the mountain again.

  14. Tiki

    Wunderbar…….I knew someone would have the answer, because I wasn’t always sure where that “package” initiated from, because I went thru written hand to hand combat with AT&T who tried to convince me that what I thought I had ..I didn’t have. And what I DID have …was them. No way Jose.
    After that lightning strike on my house last spring everything that I thought I had was in the wind, and there was so much confusion, that it took us weeks to straighten it all out and don’t ask how many hours of Muzak I had to listen to before finally getting a barely understandable young woman, from the Philipines, or Lahore, or some other third world spot and all they did was transfer me constantly to other young women around the Globe…who then proceeded to transfer me to some place in outer space..Talk about frustration…I wrote the book on it.

  15. Gosh

    I recall Muckler when he played in the old AHL ( I believe it was for the Providence Reds…)

    But it was back in about 1949 against the old New Haven Ramblers…….eh.

  16. If I wrote down the name Art Heller………………………..how many would know who I referred to?

    a wee bit o’ Ranger lore.

  17. Solid post, Grimm! And happy 4th anniversary, Sally! And of course all my best wishes to the family, Staal.

  18. I find it fascinating how he still ferociously denies it. Almost all of his peers have admitted their guilt.

  19. I just woke up a short time ago from a ferocious late morning nap, with dreams of Luis Antonio Valencia!

  20. Hi. Go Yankees. End the lockout. A-rod is a waste. Most expensive singles hitter/strikeout/doubleplay-er in baseball history. That is all. End the lockout. See you in a few weeks.

  21. Cant disagree with the “most expensive singles hitter…” thing. Though Nick Swisher is the larger waste. Im not sure what his purpose on this earth is. I’m fairly certain even his own family members despise him.

  22. Unless the guy wins us a World Series this year, I never want to see his smiling face again. He is repugnant. Again, unless he wins us a World Series this year, I hope one day his actress wife Joanna Garcia sees what a waste of space he truly is, divorces him, and takes all his money. Whew!! Venting always feels good!

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