Michael George Karakas - Born November 13, 1910 in Aurora, Minnesota – Died May 2, 1992 in Wakefield Township, Minnesota was an American professional ice Hockey goaltender.
Karakas was the goalie who introduced the now common trapper glove to the NHL by having a catch-all strap sewn from the index finger to the thumb. Some claim it was Frank Brimsek, another American goaltender, but he made it popular. It was Karakas who introduced it.
Karakas played Hockey, and was coached by Cliff Thompson at Eveleth High School.
The first Eveleth player to sign a professional contract was Mike Karakas, who signed with Chicago Shamrocks of the American Hockey Association / AHA for the season of 1930-1931, and played 2 seasons there before signing with the St. Louis Flyers for the season of 1932-33.
Karakas then played for the Tulsa Indians / Tulsa Oilers for 2 seasons.
Karakas was invited to tryout for the Chicago Black Hawks when their starting goalie Lorne Chabot was injured. After posting four wins in four games, with three shutouts, the Black Hawks made Karakas their starting goaltender; Chabot was later traded to the Montreal Maroons.
His first season saw Karakas post a great 1.92 goals against average and 9 shutouts in 48 games, earning him the 1936 Calder Memorial trophy as NHL rookie of the year. Karakas was also voted an all-star.
Karakas could not duplicate his freshman success, and he flopped in 1936-37, giving up the second most goals. The Blackhawks plummeted right along with him into the cellar of the American Division.
The 1937-38 season saw the Black Hawks replace head coach Clem Loughlin with Bill Stewart. The Black Hawks would struggle again in 1937–38, finishing with 37 points with a 14–25–9 record, but managed to earn a playoff spot by finishing 2 points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings and clinch 3rd place in the American Division. They would score an NHL low 97 goals, while giving up the 2nd most goals in the league at 139. The Hawks were a .500 team at home with a 10–10–4 record, but would only have a record of 4–15–5 on the road.
Karakas would win 14 games, earn a shutout and post a 2.80 GAA.
In the playoffs, the Black Hawks would face the Montreal Canadiens in the 1st round in a best of 3 series, and the underdog Hawks would surprise Montreal, winning the series in 3 games, clinching the series with a 3–2 OT victory at the Montreal Forum. Next up would be the New York Americans, who finished 2nd in the Canadian Division, and had 12 more points than the Hawks in the regular season, in a best of 3 series. After dropping the opening game, the Black Hawks would stun the Americans, winning the next 2, to win the series 2–1 and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Black Hawks opponent would be the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had just swept the best team in the regular season, the Boston Bruins, in a best of 5 series.
Karakas suffered a broken toe just before the start of the Stanley Cup, and the Black Hawks would get permission by the Maple Leafs to use goaltender Alfie Moore, who spent the season with the Pittsburgh Hornets of the IAHL in the first game, and he responded by helping the Black Hawks win the game 3–1. In the 2nd game, Karakas was still unavailable, and Chicago would call up Paul Goodman from the Wichita Skyhawks of the AHA. The Maple Leafs would even up the series with a 5–1 victory.
Karakas returned with a steel-toed toe guard for the 3rd game, and he helped the Hawks to a 2–1 victory. Chicago would then wrap up the series in the 4th game, winning by a score of 4–1 to earn its 2nd Stanley Cup championship in team history. Overall in that playoff run, Karakas had a 6–2 record, with two shutouts and a 1.71 goals-against-average.
Karakas played for the Black Hawks for most of the next 2 years, and was loaned to the Montreal Canadiens in 1940 when they lost Wilf Cude with a shoulder injury. He didn't win one of his 5 games, only tying one. Karakas was then demoted to the minor leagues after winning only 7 games for the Black Hawks in the 17 games he played in the 1939-40 season. Karakas joined the Providence Reds for their final 14 games before the playoffs. Karakas won 7 and tied 2 of those 14 games, and was their named the starting goalie for the AHL playoffs.
Karakas stared in the Calder Cup playoffs, winning 6 games, with 2 shutouts, as the Providence Reds defeated the Pittsburgh Hornets 3 games to 0 to win the American Hockey League Calder Cup championship for 1940.
Karakas played for the Providence Reds for 4 more years before the Chicago Black Hawks would again need his services, as the war had taken the NHL's talent and suddenly the Black Hawks needed Karakas again because the inexperienced Hec Highton was showing a bad display of goaltending.
Karakas returned and showed improved consistency. He played the final 26 games of the 50 game schedule in 1943-44 and his great goalkeeping helped the Black Hawks into the playoffs. He had a 3.04 goals against average and three shutouts in the high-scoring NHL, which was remarkable. In the playoffs he unthinkably led another Cinderella Hawks team into the Stanley Cup finals. But this time the Montreal Canadiens were unbeatable in the playoffs, and though Karakas was good, he wasn't good enough to stop the Canadiens powerful attack. The Black Hawks were swept in four straight games.
The next year, Doug Bentley joined his brother Max in the armed forces and only the goalkeeping of Karakas prevented the Hawks from avoiding the cellar. That he recorded a league high 4 shutouts was miraculous, and he was selected for the second all-star team.
In his last NHL season, the Black Hawks were in first place at one point and it seemed as if they might just be a serious contender for the Stanley Cup. But in the 1946 playoffs, the Canadiens just demolished the Black Hawks and Karakas looked weak.
With players returning from the war, and new netminder Paul Bibeault now available, the Hawks returned the 35 year old Karakas to Providence to round out his Hockey career over his final 2 seasons.
The talented Minnesotan recorded 114 career regular season wins, had 28 shutouts in the regular season, and another three in the playoffs and helped lead the way for future American born and trained goalkeepers.
During his six NHL seasons he appeared in every one of Chicago's games and earned the nickname "Iron Mike".
Mike Karakas' immense contribution to the game in his native country was recognized when he was named as an original member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973.
Alphonse Lacroix and Moe Roberts were the first American born goalies to play in the NHL, but it was Mike Karakas who became the first American-born star goalkeeper.
- Selected to the AHA First All-Star Team in 1935.
- Calder Memorial Trophy winner in 1936.
- Stanley Cup champion in 1938.
- Calder Cup champion in 1940.
- Selected to the AHL First All-Star Team in 1941.
- Selected to the AHL Second All-Star Team in 1943.
- Selected to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1945.
- Inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973.