Al Suomi played five games for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 1936-1937 season. The native of Eveleth, Minnesota was recruited by Chicago owner Frank McLaughlin along with other U.S.-born players to create an team composed entirely of Americans. The early NHL, only formed in 1926, was dominated by Canadians but the Hawks owner wanted to showcase homegrown talent.
After the group won only two of five games, the “All-American” team (as it was dubbed) was disbanded. Mr. Suomi’s brief NHL experience was over but he returned to the ice as a member of the Chicago Hornets a lower-level professional team.
Born in 1913, Mr. Suomi laced up his skates for the first time when he was five. His hometown of Eveleth had become an incubator for hockey players eventually becoming the home of two hockey hall-of-famers, ten NHL players, and, later, one of Minnesota’s high school hockey powerhouses. In 1930, Mr. Suomi, playing for Eveleth Junior College was part of a national championship team that won after overcoming a 5-0 deficit in the third period to win 7-5.
In 1935 Mr. Suomi and some of his Eveleth teammates were recruited to play for the Chicago Baby Ruths, a semi-professional team named for the candy bar. The team won a national amateur championship, but their $25 per week salary cost them a chance to skate for the U.S. in the 1936 Winter Olympics.
After his hockey career ended, Mr. Suomi settled in Illinois and opened Al’s Hardware in LaGrange Highlands, a Chicago suburb. He ran the store for 45 years, finally retiring at the age of 94 in 2007.
Mr. Suomi was not only the oldest living NHL player, turning 100 in 2013, he is believed to be the only NHLer to ever reach the century mark. With the death of Mr. Suomi, hall of famer Elmer Lach becomes the oldest living former player at the age of 96.
Al Suomi, who had 13 great-grandchildren and two great, great grandchildren at the time of his death, passed away on September 23, 2014.