John William "Jack" McCartan - Born August 5, 1935 in Saint Paul, Minnesota is a retired ice Hockey goaltender, coach and scout.
As a youth Hockey player growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota in the 1940s, McCartan rotated in at goaltender just like the rest of his teammates. As for wearing actual goalie pads – forget about it.
“Goalies never wore any equipment,” said McCartan, who played mostly on the outdoor rinks at St. Paul’s Dunning Fields. “It was kind of a rag-tag deal. We used to take turns in goal. I think I probably ended up doing better than some of the kids.”
As a freshman at St. Paul Marshall High School, McCartan joined the Hockey team with no intention of being the starting goaltender.
“They had a kid by the name of Ronnie Jones (playing goal),” McCartan said. “They told me a couple of days before the season started that he quit.”
Just like that, McCartan was named the new starter in goal.
“I had never played a Hockey game with goal pads,” McCartan said. “It was a baptism by fire.”
McCartan also played football and baseball. He drew interest from the University of Minnesota as a baseball player, but he never was recruited to play Hockey. McCartan, however, couldn’t stay away from the game for long.
“I used to walk past the old Williams Arena every day,” McCartan said. “You could hear the puck hitting the boards inside. I could only take it for a couple of weeks.”
McCartan inquired about joining the program, but he said the response was lukewarm at best.
“I told them where I played in high school and that didn’t do much for me,” McCartan said.
McCartan said he was allowed to play on the Gophers’ freshman team only because he was able to borrow a set of goalie pads from a friend. He went on to crack the lineup as a sophomore and was named a first team All-American after the 1957-58 season.
“He was a good-sized guy who stood up and cut down the angles,” said Willard Ikola, the former Eveleth goaltending wizard who became a legendary high school coach at Edina.
Ikola said he was training for the 1956 Olympics at the University of Minnesota when he had the chance to work with McCartan.
“He was good,” Ikola said. “Of course he had good hands because he was a third baseman in baseball. He was pretty deadly with that glove hand.”
After he graduated, McCartan joined the army. While a member of the armed forces, he represented the U.S. in the World Championship in Prague, an event that provided the Americans with invaluable experience leading up to the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley.
McCartan's heroics helped the United States Hockey team defeat such powerful teams as Canada, the Soviet Union, and Czechoslovakia and win the gold medal at the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympics. For his efforts, he was named as the "Best Goaltender" of the Winter Olympic Games.
McCartan's Olympic heroics, most notably in the Canada vs. USA matchup. At first the Canadians overwhelmed the Americans. “All I could see,” McCartan said, “were streaks of green Canadian jerseys.”
McCartan made 39 stops, many of them of the unbelievable category, as the U.S. won 2-1, and built momentum toward the gold medal. In the nationally televised game against the Soviets, he made 27 saves as in the words of the UPI reporter covering the game: "Late in the period, McCartan had to fight like a cornered lion as the Russians drove in savagely on the attack. It was a furious interval, but big Jack stood up - and laid down - under their bristling fire to hold them off."
“Once we got the gold,” Jack said, “I got some recognition, and I began thinking of turning pro.”
Sure enough, New York Rangers GM Muzz Patrick flew him to New York for a contract signing, after which McCartan had his first workout and dose of skepticism from critics. “Some writers criticized Patrick for even signing me,” Jack admitted. “They said it was a publicity stunt to boost attendance and that I didn’t have enough experience to stick in the NHL.”
Rangers coach Alf Pike didn’t waste any time, starting McCartan against Detroit in the next game at Madison Square Garden, March 6, 1960. On the other side were future Hall of Famers Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio and Norm Ullman up front, with the inimitable Terry Sawchuk in goal. “I tried to hide my nervousness,” McCartan said, “but it wasn’t easy. Sweat trickled down my jersey, my mouth was parched, and my tongue was thick. I kept telling myself, ‘Take it easy, kid. Try to look like you belong here.’ ”
Jack knew stopping the first shot was critical. He also figured the immortal Howe, then in his prime, was the biggest threat. “As much as I could,” McCartan said, “I kept my eye on Gordie. I figured he’d be in on me first.”
Then it happened. In the opening minute, Howe deked Rangers defenseman Bill Gadsby and skated in 1-on-1 against McCartan while Garden fans held their collective breath. “I hugged the near post, and he faked a shot to the far corner while still holding the puck,” McCartan said. “Gordie wanted to pull me out of the net and put it behind me. But I was ready for him, and when he took a wrist shot low, I dove at the puck and got my body in front of it for my big first save.”
McCartan exited with a 3-1 win. Suddenly, ‘Jumpin’ Jack’ had become The Big Apple’s newest conquering hero. Appearing in four games, McCartan went 1-1-2 with a 1.75 goals-against average for the last-place Rangers. But there was a hitch – a U.S. Army hitch. McCartan still was a soldier and had gotten a 30-day leave to play in the NHL. Now, in the midst of his fabulous foray, he had to don military uniform once more.
The save on Howe was about as good as it got for goalie McCartan in the NHL. After allowing a whopping 36 goals in only seven and a half games in 1960-61, he was sent to the minors by the Rangers, the Kitchener-Waterloo Beavers of the Eastern Professional Hockey League. In 1961, he had a sparkling 2.78 average in 52 games. The following season he led the league in shutouts with five. Over the next decade, the St. Paul native played primarily in the Western Hockey League with the Los Angeles Blades, San Francisco Seals, California Seals and the San Diego Gulls, while also appearing in the Central Hockey League and World Hockey Association. In 1969 he garnered second team Western League goaltender honors, while in both 1970 and 1971 he captured first team honors, all with the San Diego Gulls. He concluded his professional career from 1972 to 1974 with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association.
McCartan stayed in Hockey as a scout for the Vancouver Canucks after his playing days were over.
John "Jack" McCartan was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.