96-year-old former Hawk predicts victory

May 28, 2010

As the Blackhawks prepare for game one of the Stanley Cup Finals, the 96-year-old, who played on the team more than 60 years ago, is predicting a big Chicago victory.

Suomi was a winger - a kid with talent that caught notice.

In 1936, the owner of the Blackhawks decided to dump all his Canadian players in order to put an all-American team on the ice, and Al Suomi got a telegram from the club.

"He says: 'We'd like you to participate,'" said Suomi. "So I'm thinking, 'What the heck is this, this has got to be a farce. What do they want me for?'"

They wanted him to play. So the kid from Eveleth, Minnesota put on his Hawks sweater and skated onto Chicago stadium ice for the first time.

"You skate out there on the rink, and you look, and, 'Oh my god - look at all these people,'" said Suomi. "It's mind boggling. You just couldn't believe it."

It did not last terribly long for Al Suomi. The Blackhawks decided to end their all-American marketing stunt, and Suomi was out after just five games. No goals, no assists, but he came close on a breakaway at Boston Garden.

He went after a loose puck in the middle of the ice.

"I picked it up, got pretty close, but some guy swiped me from the side," said Suomi. "I wish I would have made that goal."

Al still has his skates from back then, along with a net full of memories. At 96, his fans still write him.

"One guy says, 'I've been following your career,' and he had a list of all the teams I played for," said Suomi. "I wonder where he got all that!"

The fan got it off the internet. Fans from Russia and the Czech Republic have printed a picture and sent it to Al for autographs. Stardom never wanes for a guy who might have made it in Hollywood, if not hockey.

These days of course, he's a big fan. He saw Duncan Keith lose his teeth in the last game. Al lost only a few teeth in his career, but his nose was made crooked when he got whacked with a stick.

"We got into one heck of a fight," laughed Suomi. "We both drew majors."

Suomi played a lot of hockey after his brief run with the Blackhawks, ran a hardware store, and is now retired.

He predicted the Hawks would win in five games in the Stanley Cup Finals. He will be watching the quest for the cup on his satellite dish in Minnesota.

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