Frank Brimsek

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Frank Brimsek
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1966
Born (1913-09-26)September 26, 1913
Eveleth, MN, USA
Died November 11, 1998(1998-11-11) (aged 85)
Height 5 ft 9 in (175 cm)
Weight 170 lb (77 kg; 12 st 2 lb)
Position Goaltender
Caught Left
Played for Boston Bruins
Chicago Black Hawks
Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets
Providence Reds
Coast Guard Cutters
Playing career 1938–1950

Francis Charles "Mister Zero" Brimsek (September 26, 1915 — November 11, 1998) was an American professional ice hockey goaltender who played for the Boston Bruins and Chicago Black Hawks in the National Hockey League and the Coast Guard Cutters in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Brimsek was born in the hockey hotbed of Eveleth, Minnesota on September 26, 1915.[1] His parents were of Slovene descent.[2] The town of Eveleth produced at that time, four other hockey players, Mike Karakas, Sam LoPresti, Al Suomi and John Mariucci, who would play in the National Hockey League (NHL). Brimsek and Karakas played on the same baseball team in high school.[3] Brimsek first started playing hockey when his brother, John, the second-string goalie on the Eveleth High School team, expressed his desire to be a defenseman instead. John was moved to his desired position, while Frank was slotted in the nets.[4] Soon, Brimsek found himself spending most of his spare time on the Eveleth rinks playing hockey. Unlike most of his friends who wanted to be high-scoring forwards, Brimsek never showed any desire to play any other position except for goalie. Just before winter, Brimsek and his friends would get on a dry lot, and they would practice shooting at him.[5] After graduating from high school, Brimsek went to play for the St. Cloud State Teachers College hockey team.[6] He also graduated from college with a machine shop student's degree.[7]

Playing career[edit]

Early career[edit]

In the fall of 1934, Brimsek was invited to the Detroit Red Wings training camp for a shot at playing in the National Hockey League (NHL). Jack Adams, the Red Wings' coach and manager, made a bad impression on Brimsek. He felt that Adams had a habit of favoritism.[3] This led him to try out for another professional team, the Baltimore Orioles of the Eastern Amateur Hockey League (EAHL). Unfortunately for Brimsek, the Orioles decided to cut him. Disappointed, Brimsek hitchhiked back to Eveleth.[4] On his way back home, he had a chance meeting with the owner of the Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets, John H. Harris.[8] The Yellow Jackets were in need for a goaltender and Harris proceeded to sign Brimsek to the team.[4] Brimsek started for the Yellow Jackets for the first time in 1934–35 during the X-Games, winning 14 out of 16 games he played in.

The next season, the Yellow Jackets joined the EAHL.[9] Brimsek finished with the most wins and shutouts in the league with 20 and eight respectively. At the end of the season, he was named to the league's Second All-Star Team and he was awarded the George L. Davis Trophy for having the lowest goals against average (GAA). Impressed by Brimsek, Harris wanted to protect his interests in the goalie so he had the Red Wings put Brimsek on their protected list. Harris then tried to get the Red Wings to bring Brimsek up to play with them.[8] The Red Wings wanted Brimsek to first play one year for their amateur team in Pontiac, but Brimsek turned down the offer. Brimsek opted to stay with the Yellow Jackets instead.[10] Harris then shopped Brimsek around the NHL until he was accepted by the Boston Bruins in October 1937. The Bruins were already well established in net with future hall-of-famer Tiny Thompson. This led to Brimsek being assigned by the Bruins to the Providence Reds of the International-American Hockey League (IAHL) for the 1937–38 season. In his only full season with the Reds, Brimsek helped his team win the Calder Cup and he was named to the league's First All-Star Team.[3]

Boston Bruins[edit]

Brimsek started the 1938–39 season with the Reds but he would not stay long with them. During an NHL exhibition game, Thompson got injured. The Bruins were slated to open the regular season without Thompson. Needing a replacement, Brimsek was called up by the Bruins to start.[11] In his NHL debut, Brimsek helped his team defeat the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 3–2. He started in net for one more game, a 4–1 victory against the Red Wings, before being sent back down to the Reds as Thompson recovered. Art Ross, the Bruins' coach and general manager, had seen enough of Brimsek during his two stints in Boston to contemplate promoting Brimsek full-time with the Bruins.[4] Thompson was traded to the Red Wings after playing only five games with the Bruins.[12] Ross then proceeded to promote Brimsek as the team's new starting goalie.[13] This did not sit well with Bruins fans as Thompson was a favorite and he was the reigning Vezina Trophy winner.[3]

In Brimsek's first game as the starting goalie, his team fell 2–0 to the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal. Meanwhile on that same night, Thompson won his first game with the Red Wings.[14] Also, Brimsek wore red hockey pants instead of the team's colors, and he was wearing Thompson's former jersey number No. 1. These little details did not help him improve his image with the fans.[15][16] The next game yielded a more positive result for Brimsek, as he shutout the Chicago Black Hawks. This did not earn him the acknowledgement of Bruins fans yet as when he made his first appearance in Boston, the fans greeted him coldly. However, after shutting out his opponents for the second straight game, the fans warmed up to him immediately.[14] Brimsek earned six shutouts in his first seven games, leading to the fans and the media calling him by the nickname of "Mr. Zero". During that seven game span, he also set a then modern-NHL record for longest shutout streak of 231 minutes and 54 seconds.[16] At the end of the regular season, Brimsek had backstopped the Bruins to a first place finish in the league. Brimsek finished the season with the most wins (33), shutouts (10) and the lowest GAA (1.56) in the league.[17] In the playoffs, Brimsek and his team defeated the New York Rangers before beating the Maple Leafs in the 1939 Stanley Cup Finals.[18] Adding to his Stanley Cup victory, Brimsek was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy, the Vezina Trophy, and he was named to the NHL First All-Star Team.[17]

The following season, Brimsek finished first in the league in wins again and he was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team. This would be his first of seven berths to the NHL Second All-Star Team.[17] The Bruins were eliminated in the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champions, New York Rangers, in the semi-finals.[19] In 1940–41, Brimsek backstopped the Bruins to their third consecutive first place finish in the league. The Bruins made it to the 1941 Stanley Cup Finals and were matched up with the Red Wings. The Red Wings fell in four games in a best-of-seven series giving Brimsek his second and last Stanley Cup victory. For his efforts during the regular season, Brimsek was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team for the second year in a row.[3]

In 1943, the Second World War interrupted Brimsek's career, and he joined the Coast Guard. He played on the Coast Guard "Cutters" hockey team and then served aboard a Coast Guard supply ship in the Pacific until the end of the war.[20]

He resumed his career with the Bruins in 1945-46 and played with them until 1948-49, when he was sold to the Chicago Black Hawks where he played his final year in the NHL.[20] He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966 (the first American NHL player to earn HHOF membership) and was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973. In 1998, shortly before his death, he was ranked number 67 on The Hockey News' list of the 100 Greatest Hockey Players.

By the time Brimsek retired, he was the only American playing regularly in the NHL. The NHL would play for over a decade without any Americans playing on a regular basis until Tom Williams joined the Bruins in 1961.


Despite the success of Thompson and Brimsek, both of whom were elected to the Hall of Fame and wore uniform number 1, the Bruins are the only one of the NHL's "Original Six" teams not to have retired the number (or, in the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs, hung banners indicating it is an "Honoured Number" while leaving it in circulation).

An annual award given to the top high school goaltender in the state of Minnesota is given in Brimsek's honor. Brimsek, who won 252 games, held the record for winningest American-born netminder until Tom Barrasso of the Pittsburgh Penguins broke his long-held record on February 15, 1994.[21]


Career statistics[edit]

Regular season[edit]

Season Team League GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA
1934–35 Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets X-Games 16 14 2 0 960 39 1 2.44
1935–36 Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets EAHL 38 20 16 2 2280 74 8 1.95
1936–37 Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets EAHL 47 19 23 5 2820 142 3 3.02
1937–38 Providence Reds IAHL 48 25 16 7 2950 86 5 1.75
1938–39 Providence Reds IAHL 9 5 2 2 570 18 0 1.89
1938–39 Boston Bruins NHL 43 33 9 1 2610 68 10 1.56
1939–40 Boston Bruins NHL 48 31 12 5 2950 98 6 1.99
1940–41 Boston Bruins NHL 48 27 8 13 3040 102 6 2.01
1941–42 Boston Bruins NHL 47 24 17 6 2930 115 3 2.35
1942–43 Boston Bruins NHL 50 24 17 9 3000 176 1 3.52
1945–46 Boston Bruins NHL 34 16 14 4 2040 111 2 3.26
1946–47 Boston Bruins NHL 60 26 23 11 3600 175 3 2.92
1947–48 Boston Bruins NHL 60 23 24 13 3600 168 3 2.80
1948–49 Boston Bruins NHL 54 26 20 8 3240 147 1 2.72
1949–50 Chicago Black Hawks NHL 70 22 38 10 4200 244 5 3.49
NHL totals 514 252 182 80 31,210 1404 40 2.70


Season Team League GP W L T MIN GA SO GAA
1935–36 Pittsburgh Yellowjackets EAHL 8 4 3 1 480 19 2 2.36
1937–38 Providence Reds IAHL 7 5 2 0 515 16 0 1.86
1938–39 Boston Bruins NHL 12 8 4 863 18 1 1.25
1939–40 Boston Bruins NHL 6 2 4 360 15 0 2.50
1940–41 Boston Bruins NHL 11 8 3 678 23 1 2.04
1941–42 Boston Bruins NHL 5 2 3 307 16 0 3.13
1942–43 Boston Bruins NHL 9 4 5 560 33 0 3.54
1945–46 Boston Bruins NHL 10 5 5 651 29 0 2.67
1946–47 Boston Bruins NHL 5 1 4 343 16 0 2.80
1947–48 Boston Bruins NHL 5 1 4 317 20 0 3.79
1948–49 Boston Bruins NHL 5 1 4 316 16 0 3.04
NHL totals 68 32 36 4395 186 2 2.54



  1. ^ "Hockey Hall of Fame develops". The Ely Echo. 1972-12-13. p. 18. Retrieved 2013-10-15. 
  2. ^ "Brimsek only 36 minutes from new hockey shutout record". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1938-12-21. p. 44. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "One on one with Frank Brimsek". HHOF. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  4. ^ a b c d Fischler, Stan (2001). Boston Bruins: Greatest Moments and Players. Champaign, Illinois: Sports and Publishing LLC. p. 41. ISBN 1582613745. 
  5. ^ Carroll, Dink (1980-03-04). "U.S hockey gold stirs memory of Mr. Zero". The Montreal Gazette. p. 36. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  6. ^ "Frank C. "Mr. Zero" Brimsek". United States Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  7. ^ Taggart, Bert P. (1936-01-21). "Yellow Jacket players quite handy lot to have around, whether they're on ice skates or not". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 20. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  8. ^ a b Perlove, Joe (1945-10-17). "How Pittsburgh John out-witted (heels) of hockey!". Toronto Daily Star. p. 8. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  9. ^ "U.S Hockey League to operate with 5 clubs". The Montreal Gazette. 1935-10-29. p. 13. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  10. ^ "Ex-Jacket clears all but 17 shots". The Pittsburgh Press. 1937-12-10. p. 54. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  11. ^ "Brimsek strong contender for coveted hockey trophy". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1938-12-20. p. 18. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  12. ^ "Sport tabloids". The Bend Bulletin. 1938-11-25. p. 12. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  13. ^ "Bruins march on as Frankie Brimsek gets his fourth shutout win". The Lewiston Daily Sun. 1938-12-13. p. 41. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  14. ^ a b McNeil, Marc T. (1938-12-14). "Brimsek overcomes hostility of Boston's fandom". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  15. ^ Goldstein, Richard (1998-10-13). "Frankie Brimsek, 85, a Hall of Fame goalie". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-15. 
  16. ^ a b Keane, Kerry (2003). Tales from the Boston Bruins. Champaign, Illinois: Sports and Publishing LLC. p. 23. ISBN 1582615659. 
  17. ^ a b c "Frank Brimsek". Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  18. ^ "1938-39 NHL season summary". Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  19. ^ "Bruins-Rangers playoff history". The Boston Globe. 2013-05-13. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  20. ^ a b "Frank "Mr. Zero" Brimsek". United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 19 May 2012. 
  21. ^ "1993-94 Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)". Retrieved 19 May 2012. 
  22. ^ "Andrew Hammond secures NHL goaltending record, Senators claim crucial OT victory". Ottawa Citizen. 2015-03-18. Retrieved 2015-03-18. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Cully Dahlstrom
Winner of the Calder Memorial Trophy
Succeeded by
Kilby MacDonald
Preceded by
Cecil Thompson
Winner of the Vezina Trophy
Succeeded by
David Kerr
Preceded by
Turk Broda
Winner of the Vezina Trophy
Succeeded by
Johnny Mowers