EVELETH — On hockey corner in Eveleth, home of the Big Stick, there was a special dedication Wednesday as the city geared up for its Fourth of July festivities.
A statue and plaque honoring hockey legend Francis “Frank” Charles Brimsek were dedicated at the evening ceremony.
“It is an honor to present Frank Brimsek’s Mr. Zero statue,” said Bill Aho, member of the EDA board and co-coordinator of the statue with George Walters. “He came from the little town of Eveleth on Hayes Street. We just want to preserve the legacy of being a great hockey community — from the span of little tikes through adulthood. I don’t know if any other town can brag like we can brag and it is a great day to do just that.”
During Independence Day celebrations in 2018, the group unveiled the statue of John Mariucci at the same location. Brimsek’s statue was created by the same artist, Jeff Kreitz of Creative Steel Work Inc. in Breezy Point.
One point of pride is that the statues are made entirely of Iron Range materials.
Doug Palazzari, director of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, gave a presentation before the unveiling of the statue. He recalled how Brimsek was the youngest boy in his family and the de-facto goalie when they would play hockey.
“Today is all about Frank,” Palazzari said, “and I’m sure he wouldn’t want me to do any of this.” The crowd laughed and many nodded their heads.
Among those gathered Wednesday under the Big Stick were several family members of Brimsek, including his eldest daughter, Karen Carlson of Eveleth.
Although she said her father would’ve hated all the attention, she was pleased with the statue.
“It is nice to see him recognized and I am thrilled. The art is beautiful,” Carlson said. “My father would’ve hated all of this. He used to sneak out the back door of Boston Garden to avoid the press. I’m tickled.”
Carlson was also pleased by the impromptu family reunion that sprang up around the statue.
“Dad quit hockey when I was 6 or 7,” said Carlson, remembering a favorite family legend. “Mother took me to see him play at a professional game when I was 2 or 3. Back in those days they didn’t wear masks and when I saw him skate out on the ice I said, ‘Hey! That’s my daddy!’”
Brimsek was born in Eveleth on Sept. 26, 1915, and is known as one of the first great American hockey players. He played goalie and earned the nickname of “Mr. Zero” after 10 shutout games during the 1938-1939 season. Six of the shutouts were in his first eight games.
Brimsek played hockey for Eveleth High School and then what is now St. Cloud University. Later, he played for several minor league teams including: Eveleth Rangers, Pittsburgh Yellowjackets, Providence Reds and New Haven Eagles before going to the NHL. In 1938, he was signed as a free agent by Boston. In 1949, Boston traded him to Chicago for cash.
His career was temporarily interrupted when he served for two years in the United States Coast Guard during World War II. However, never far from hockey, Brimsek played for the Coast Guard Cutters in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League until commissioned into active service.
According to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame Museum’s website, “Brimsek had over 10 seasons of regular and playoff action, and goals against average were 2.74 with 42 shutouts.”
Throughout his career, Brimsek played 514 games with 252 wins, 80 ties and 182 losses. Brimsek won the Vezina Trophy for the best goaltender in the NHL, twice, in 1939 and 1942. He also won the Calder trophy for the best NHL rookie in 1939. Brimsek also played on many all-star teams.
Brimsek was inducted as a player to the hall of fame in 1966. He died on November 11, 1998 at the age of 83.
Each season since 1994-1995 the Minnesota Mr. Goalie-Frank Brimsek award has been given to the top goaltender in the state. The award is sponsored by the Minnesota Minute Men.
“This recognition today is not only appropriate,” said Palazzari concluding his speech, “but it is long overdue. Frank, you’re looking good. Welcome back to Eveleth.”