Summer Premier Auction 2020


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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 8/28/2020

Charlie Gardiner was hockey’s first superstar goaltender. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland and raised in Winnipeg, Canada, “Smiling Charlie” led the Chicago Black Hawks to their first Stanley Cup in 1934 and is credited with putting hockey on the map in the Windy City. Shortly after becoming the only goalie ever to captain his team to the Cup, his career and life ended tragically when he died (6/13/1934) at the age of 29 from a brain hemorrhage. Had his career continued, the “Wee Scot” would probably be considered one of, if not, the greatest goalie in the history of the sport.

Presented here is Charlie Gardiner’s original 1927 player contract to join the Black Hawks. The one-year contract lasting from 11/1/1927 to 3/31/1928 was signed by Gardiner and the team’s original owner and acting president, Frederic McLaughlin, on April 8, 1927, witnessed by “R. Stanley” (relation to Lord?) as noted. Gardiner was to receive $3,500 plus additional $500 if he chose to re-sign and remain with the team, which he did for the remainder of his seven-year career so unfairly cut short. The NHL’s original and acting president at the time, Frank Calder, has also signed the agreement as an official approval of the deal on April 13, 1927. So much important history is wrapped up in this 8.5” by 14”, two-sided piece of paper, which remains in excellent shape for its 93 years of aging. The four signatures, most importantly Gardiner and Calder, are well-preserved in clean and strong black ink (7-8/10 in our book).

As a rookie 1927-28, Gardiner led the league in losses with 32 and Chicago finished dead last. The next season did not fare much better as the Black Hawks won just seven games. Even with a 1.93 GAA, Gardiner again lost a league-high 29 games. But the man persevered and continued to take his game to the next level. Regardless of the Hawks’ ongoing struggles (Chicago could only muster 33 goals in 44 games in 1928-29), he was viewed by his peers as the toughest to score upon in the NHL. The four-time All-Star won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender in 1932 and ’34, posting 42 career shutouts and a 2.02 lifetime GAA.

It was during the 1934 Stanley Cup playoffs when the “Roving Scotsman” became legendary. Chicago advanced to play the Detroit Red Wings in the finals despite the fact that Gardiner had unknowingly been playing through a chronic tonsil infection the entire season, often slumping over his goal between breaks from the growing fatigue and pain. But a relentless Gardiner pressed on, determined to win the Stanley Cup at any cost. Showing remarkable leadership before the decisive fourth game against Detroit, the Captain reportedly assured his teammates that one goal would be enough that night. As fate would have it, the game was scoreless heading into double overtime when Chicago's Mush March slapped in the game-winner. Playing through an unthinkable amount of pain, Gardiner allowed just 12 goals in 8 playoff games and willed his team to victory. Of course, when it came time to hoist the Cup, he could barely stand, let alone lift Lord Stanley’s grand trophy. A few weeks after being wheelbarrowed down the city streets of Chicago for the team’s victory parade, Gardiner suffered a massive brain hemorrhage brought on by his untreated tonsil infection and would die during brain surgery. His death shook the sports world and became the most heartbreaking story during the NHL's early days.

Unsurprisingly, Charlie Gardiner was honored as an original inductee in the Hockey Hall of Fame’s inaugural class of 1945. His very own 1927 rookie contract provided by the Chicago Black Hawks comes directly from the Gardiner family and is easily among the most important hockey artifacts we have represented at auction. Includes a letter of provenance from his grandson. Full LOA from Beckett for the autographs.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $2,000
Final prices include buyers premium.: $5,148
Number Bids: 9
Auction closed on Friday, August 28, 2020.
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