Gerard Finton David "Gerry" Cosby - Born May 15, 1909 in Roxbury, Massachusetts – November 26, 1996 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts was an American ice Hockey goaltender and businessman.
Cosby started his Hockey career in the most unusual way. He was a 19 year old who never played Hockey and was working as a office boy and switchboard operator at Boston Garden, the home of the Boston Tigers of the Canadian-American Hockey League in 1928.
One day in 1928, Eddie Powers the manager of the Tigers, fired their netminder because his drinking had made him too unreliable and asked Gerry "How'd you like to get in the other net and be our goalie for awhile". Cosby had never played Hockey, let alone goal in his life, but he went down to the Tigers’ dressing room and gamely donned the pads, equipment and oversized skates - they were size 9 1/2 and Cosby was size 6, all the equipment was too large for him, but he made the commitment and went out on the ice.
As Cosby put it "I got really beat up. I didn't even know how to skate" but he managed to survive the practice and thought that was it; they'd bring in a regular goalie for the next practice. For some reason or another, it didn't work out that way, and Powers told Cosby to try it again. Sure enough he got creamed again, but not quite as bad. The third time was even better, and by the end of the week, Cosby actually started to feel like coming back for more. His play continued to improve each day and in time Gerry had a steady job as the Tigers’ practice netminder.
The Boston Bruins also practiced in the Arena and Cosby caught the eye of Art Ross their GM and Coach, and he was soon seeing double-duty as the practice netminder for both teams. Remember, this was back in the days when teams usually carried only one netminder, so having a reliable practice goaltender was a necessity. And although Gerry was not getting paid for any of these practice sessions, he was gaining valuable experience and being mentored by Bruins netminder Tiny Thompson, a future Hall of Famer. His theory was that a good goalie never left his feet or fell down - at least if he could help it. "Keep working," Tiny would tell Cosby, "You'll get better if you have the mind for it."
Tiny was right, and Cosby's goaltending improved steadily because he was a real nut for Hockey. Even a couple of months later, Cosby was still taking a beating at the practices, but felt it was worth it, as the shooters were the likes of Cooney Weiland, Dutch Gainor, Dit Clapper, Eddie Shore, Lionel Hitchman, Marty Barry and Red Beatty to name a few. Cosby was also learning a Hockey science, a man couldn't pay to learn, and soon became quite good in the nets.
In 1932 Cosby was invited to join a team that toured parts of Europe with a group of American Hockey players that was organized by Bruins’ president Walter A. Brown on the invitation of Jeff Dixon, manager of the Palais des Sport, the Madison Square Garden of Paris, France.
Dixon figured the Europeans would pay to see good ice Hockey, and he imported the team, financed the trip and booked them all over Europe. The first games and practices were at the Palais des Sport, with seating for over 15,000.
In early winter of 1932, Cosby was selected to play on the Walter A. Brown managed Boston Olympic Hockey Club. The team was to take a four-month tour of Europe that would include playing in the 1933 World Ice Hockey championships held in Prague, Czechoslovakia from February 18-26, 1933. Just prior to leaving for Europe, Brown learned that the Amateur Athletic Union / A.A.U. was not happy with the team name (Boston Olympics) due to there being two New Yorkers on the team. The name was changed to the Rangers. While playing overseas the European newspaper writers added the Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Rangers began play in the World Championships on February 21 with a 7-0 win over Switzerland. They then followed up with three more consecutive shutouts over Poland 4-0, Czechoslovakia 6-0 and Austria 4-0, setting the stage for a matchup with the Toronto National Sea Fleas representing Canada and coached by Harold Ballard, future owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, in the finals. The game took place on February 26, the Massachusetts Rangers would pull out a 2-1 overtime victory. This was the first, and so far, only World Hockey Championship the United States has won. It also marked the first time the U.S. had defeated Canada in International competition. In five games played during the World Championships, Cosby had the 4 shutouts and only allowed 1 goal in the tournament. The team toured Europe for 6 more weeks, playing in Czechoslovakia, Austria, France, England, Germany, Bavaria, Italy, Hungary and Switzerland.
When Cosby returned to the United States, he got a job in New York City as a runner on Wall Street. Cosby would later say "It was the toughest job I ever had" and I couldn't wait for the start of the next Hockey season so i could take a "vacation"
Cosby joined the New York Athletic Club as they had a Hockey team, and decided to go a step further and contact Lester Patrick of the New York Rangers, and said Mr. Patrick, my name is Cosby, Gerry Cosby from Boston. I've been the practice goalie for the Bruins and Boston Tigers, and I'd like to come out and practice with the Rangers. He replied "Fine, Come on down; we need somebody. Were practicing tomorrow morning at 11a.m."
Cosby showed up the next morning at Madison Square Garden, walked into the dressing room and introduced himself to Lester Patrick. Lester turned around and looked at all the Rangers players, then turned back to Cosby and yelled, "fellows, I want to introduce you to Gerry Cosby. He called me up yesterday, and he wants to try out for our team!"
Cosby couldn't believe what he was hearing, as he had no intention of trying out for the Rangers, just wanted to be their practice goalie, as he was in Boston. When he heard Lester say that, he felt like going through the floor. Anyway, he knew what Cosby really mean't, and let him dress and work out for the team; the next thing Crosby knew; he got the job as the practice goalie, where he learned plenty more.
When the season was over, Cosby got a call from Bunny Ahearne, who was basically running all the tournaments in Europe, and who also decided who played who - except the pros. Bunny had heard about Cosby, and wanted to know if he would be interested in going to England next season to play Hockey there.
A new Hockey rink had been built at Empire Pool in Wembley Stadium with seating for 11,000. There were to be 2 teams playing there, the Canadians and the Lions, and Ahearne wanted Cosby to play for the Wembley Lions. Cosby was the only American on the team that included 3 Englishmen and the rest Canadians. Cosby would be voted the MVP of the English League that season, and also managed to attend business college in his spare time.
Cosby only played 1 season for the Lions and returned to New York, asking for his job back as a practice goalie for the Rangers. It was now 1936, and Cosby was notified of his selection for the 1936 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.
Cosby had just gotten a new job with Stewart Iglehart’s construction business, but declined the invitation, as his new boss thought he should stick around his new job, as the company was doing quite well at the time, and didn't think he should leave just then to play Hockey in the Olympics. The U.S. Olympic team was going to take 2 goalies, the other being Tom Moone, and after Cosby declined, they went with just Moone as the goalie. The United States would win the Bronze Medal. Cosby later said "It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life" and that he was probably the only person in the history of Hockey to turn down a invitation to play in the Olympics.
While all that was going on, Cosby was getting more and more interested in the science of Hockey and its equipment. Cosby got to be very good friends with Lester Patrick, and could run ideas by Lester when he thought of them. One day Cosby went up to Patrick and said "Lester, it's kind of ridiculous to wear elbow pads on the outside of a Hockey jersey, isn't it ?"
Lester agreed but wanted to know what Cosby could do about it. "I tell you what" said Cosby, "I could build a jersey that would have elbow pads underneath.
Lester said "Do it" and Cosby did. That's how the pros starting wearing their elbow pads out of sight. But Cosby did not want to dedicate his time to the equipment business just yet, as he still loved playing Hockey, and thought his game was getting better, and felt he could do better then a practice goalie.
By 1939, Cosby became the sub-goalie for the New York Rovers, the Rangers farm team in the Eastern Hockey League, and got in a few games when their regular goalie Johnny Fisher got hurt. In 1940, the Rovers started with a new goalie named Jack McGill, but he had a bad knee, and after a while, Cosby was back in goal for the Rovers, and played most of the season from there, backstopping a powerful Rovers team to the league championship, and the team was awarded the Hamilton B. Wills Trophy.
Cosby’s involvement in the sporting goods business began while he was with the Rovers, when GM and Coach Tom Lockhart asked him "Can you get me a gross of Hockey sticks. Cosby was able to find a company called Lovell Manufacturing, in Erie, Pa. that made Hockey sticks and ordered six dozen at a good price. The sticks were delivered, Lockhart and the players liked them and soon Gerry was placing orders for gloves and pads and the rest as they say is history. That got Cosby into the sporting business in 1940.
Cosby then started to get repeat orders from the Rovers and from other teams in the Eastern Hockey League, also the NHL Rangers and New York Americans were placing orders too.
Cosby had a apartment on York Ave in Manhattan, and put aside a little room for all the equipment he was selling. Crosby had no money at the time, and found the beginning to be quite the struggle. Cosby could gratefully remember when once Lockhart gave him a cheque in advance of the equipment arriving.
Crosby was still attending goal, and playing wherever Lockhart wanted him to play at the time, while at the same time ordering more equipment.
By 1942 World War II was on, and many players from all levels of Hockey were overseas, Cosby was often called upon to tend goal for the Boston Olympics as well as the Rovers in the same week. Cosby became the only goalie to play on 2 different teams in the same league, during the same season. Soon Cosby was playing more Hockey then he ever played in his whole life, and also doing more business with equipment too.
Cosby's York Ave apartment was too small, and he needed a larger space for his growing Hockey equipment business, so he moved to a larger place opposite Rockefeller Center, and just after the move, got a call from Frank O'Shea, a old colleague he once helped, who was just closing his sporting business, and sold Cosby 27 cases of equipment. At the time, Cosby had no idea how important that equipment was, as with the war breaking out, no one else had the type of equipment that Cosby now had. It kept his business going all through the war years.
Cosby finally got drafted, and that ended his Hockey career. After the war was over, Cosby never gave thought to playing again, although many of his fellow players did return, some with vey poor results.
Cosby once again assumed total control of his business. By this time Cosby’s was a respected supplier of equipment and uniforms for all sports to the pros, colleges and high schools as well as the general public and a larger store was needed.
A chance encounter with William Jennings at Gerry’s son Michael’s football game led to him asking the Rangers President about a vacant store adjacent to the old Madison Square Garden on the corner of Eighth Avenue and 50th Street. When Jennings told him it was available Gerry drove down from Massachusetts the following Monday morning to sign the lease for the store which opened in 1959.
Gerry often said that the 50th Street store was his favorite. Being so close to the Garden was good for business and good for the Rangers who were frequent visitors, especially when a new batch of sticks came in. “They didn’t have room upstairs in the Garden to keep the sticks”, Michael Cosby recalled, “so when the Northland sticks came in the players would come in and we had a big rack in the back and they would go pick out the ones they liked.” Former Ranger Dick Duff also recalled the store fondly; “The guys were always good to us in the Cosby’s store down in the old Madison Square Garden. It was a nice store, nice family and they loved Hockey”.
And then in 1968 when the Rangers and Knicks moved into the New Garden on 33rd street and Seventh Avenue, Cosby’s moved along with them, first to a street level location outside Penn Station then into a space in the Garden’s Esplanade. Today they are located at 11 Penn Plaza about half a block from the Garden. There is also a store and warehouse in Sheffield, Massachusetts, where most of the merchandise is designed, manufactured and distributed.
Cosby was an innovator. He incorporated the fiber thumb and wrist into the Hockey glove, and redesigned Hockey jerseys to allow equipment to be worn comfortably underneath. He instituted the adjustable size and suspension style in the Hockey helmet. He also introduced the ankle protector, cellular rubber goalie equipment, and Velcro straps for Hockey pads. In addition to these innovations, he worked with a stick manufacturer to create laminated stick shafts and fiber glass wrapped blades.
'Gerry Cosby's' is now operated by his son Micheal at Madison Square Gardens, and is a world famous sporting goods store to visit in New York for all ice Hockey fans.
Gerry Cosby was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 1997.