Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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96 MARCH 2022 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED IRISH ECHOES JIM LEFEBVRE N otre Dame hockey, under the di- rection of head coach Jeff Jackson since 2005, has reached a high level of success, with four trips to the Frozen Four, including NCAA championship game appearances in 2008 and 2018. The recent Irish have sent numerous stars on to professional hockey. And along the way, the Irish passed the 50th anniversary of the start of the modern era of the sport at Notre Dame. It may surprise some that there was an earlier iteration of Notre Dame hockey and that football figured heavily in it. Knute Rockne is supposed to have quipped that, "I don't support any ac- tivity in which an Irishman is handed a club." But under his tenure as athletic director, the Irish most definitely com- peted in hockey against some of the Midwest's top collegiate programs. Notre Dame athletes primarily from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula — several of whom were football players — populated the first Fighting Irish hockey teams in the 1920s, skating on the "Badin bog," the frozen marshy area outside of Badin Hall. The vagaries of Northern Indiana winters sometimes played havoc with practices and scheduled games. Prime among the early team mem- bers was Paul Castner, the multi-sport standout from St. Thomas Military in St. Paul, Minn. A baseball star, Castner would go on to face Babe Ruth while pitching for the Chicago White Sox. In football, he was among just a handful of Irish players to line up alongside both George Gipp (1920) and the Four Horse- men (1922). He was in the mold of Gipp — skilled as a passer, rusher and kicker. In hockey, Castner roamed the ice as a smooth-skating center, usually lead- ing the team in scoring. In 1919-20 and 1920-21, games were hard to come by, but that changed in the winter of 1922. Cast- ner kept his leading role and Neil "Spike" Flinn, a football guard from Superior, Wis., was voted captain. The team was managed by Rev. William Cunningham. Three athletes from Calumet, Mich., had come to Notre Dame on the recom- mendation of their pal Gipp — Heartley "Hunk" Anderson, Fred "Ojay" Larson and Percy Wilcox — and all contributed to the hockey team. And playing goalie for the 1921-22 squad was a freshman from Green Bay, Wis., whose best foot- ball days were ahead of him — future Horseman Jim Crowley. Notre Dame's first big clash was a trip to play Michigan, and the Scholastic reported that the Irish "lived up to all advance notices in Ann Arbor … in the hardest and most thrilling game ever seen in that city." Castner's "end to end rushes often made the Wolverines look bad," but the home squad took leads of 1-0 and 2-1, with goals by Castner and Flinn tying the game. In overtime, "the Fighting Irish stepped out on the ice and their greater stamina was at once appar- ent when Castner stick handled through the Maize and Blue warriors and shot the winning goal" in a 3-2 triumph. The Irish followed with a 3-1 victory against the Michigan Aggies at East Lansing, then hosted Culver Academy. "A large crowd of spectators, to many of whom hockey was something new, saw the fast-traveling Irish squad snow Cul- ver under an avalanche of goals." The final: 18-1. The Irish won a return match against the Michigan Aggies, 11-0, then embarked on the ultimate road trip, to the hockey epicenter of Houghton, Mich., home of the Michigan School of Mines (today's Michigan Tech). There, reported the Scholastic, "the brand of hockey played was thrilling, even to the old calloused fans of the Copper Country, accustomed as they are to great hockey games." The Irish took the opener 4-1, with three goals from Castner, "two being the Led by a core group of versatile football players, the 1921-22 Irish ice hockey team earned the distinc- tion as "Western Champions" after it finished as the only undefeated college team in the region. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Paul Castner, a three-sport standout from Minnesota, played football for Knute Rockne, led the Irish hockey team in scoring and went on to pitch in the major leagues for the Chicago White Sox. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS Football Stars Helped Notre Dame Claim 1922 Hockey Championship

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