A Letter from “Toothless” Jim O’Brien, the Oldest Living Stanley Cup Winner
My name is Jim O’Brien. I played goal for the 1922 Toronto St. Patricks. In that year, we defeated the Vancouver Millionaires by a count of 3 games to 2 to capture Lord Stanley’s Cup. Of course, it was a very different game in many different ways back then. Salaries weren’t nearly as high. Why, for the 1921-22 season, I received $16 Canadian and a carton of Chesterfield cigarettes as a bonus for playing in every game.
The equipment was different too. Today, goalies wear masks on their faces. They have chest, arm and leg pads, as well as a catching glove. I didn’t have any pads at all. I would put on my skates, strap a couple of possum carcasses to my legs, and head out there. I had no glove either. I’d take a rabbit skin and wrap it around my hand, then tie it off with a bungee cord. Sure, I had to amputate my hand the very next season because of the resulting loss of circulation and gangrene. But it was all worth it to see my name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The “Toothless” nickname is a different story altogether. Back in the Great War, which is what we called World War I back then, I’d been assigned to a squadron ready to go into the Battle of Ypres. Well, supply lines got cut and we struggled to make do. Anyway, we had no food, no water and were rapidly getting advanced on. Anyway, we all got the scurvy because of lack of Vitamin C and every single one of us lost every tooth in our mouths. What? Did you think I took a puck to the face or something? I’m not that stupid.
Anyway, I’d like to wish good luck to both the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim and the New Jersey Devils in their Game-7 battle tonight. May the best team win.
“Toothless” Jim O’Brien.