Bill Mosienko enjoyed a very productive 14-year NHL career, scoring 258 goals with 282 assists for 540 points in 711 games, all with the Chicago Black Hawks. He scored thirty or more goals twice and reached the 20-goal plateau five times. He was also a dependable playoff performer recording 10 goals and four assists in 22 post season games. Bill played in five All-Star games, won the Lady Byng Memorial Award in 1945 and set a league record when he scored three goals within 21 seconds against the Rangers in 1952. Bill was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965.
Despite his small stature, (very generously listed as 5-8, 160 pounds) Bill was one of the best players of his generation, yet he is often overlooked when fans discuss the greats of the game. But now a new, meticulously researched biography titled, Mosienko: The Man Who Caught Lightning in a Bottle, by hockey historian Ty DiLello will hopefully rectify that oversight.
Supplied with nearly 3,000 clippings and family photographs by Mosienko’s son Bill Jr, DiLello was able to piece together the speedy forward’s life and career. Mosienko was the son of Ukrainian immigrants, Daniel and Natalia Museyenko (or Moiseyenko). The couple left for Canada with their six children aboard the SS Palanza in October 1912, just a few months after the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank off the coast of Newfoundland, and arrived in Quebec three weeks later. Unfortunately, a day after reaching the Grosse Isle Quarantine Station in Quebec, their year-old son Ivan died. It was also at this point that the spelling of their last name was changed to Mosienko.
After clearing quarantine, the family boarded a train bound for Winnipeg where Daniel had a promise of employment. However, tragedy struck the family again when during the trip Natalia realized she didn’t have enough milk for her newborn baby and couldn’t get her message across to the train officials. The child died shortly before they arrived in Winnipeg.
The Mosienko’s settled in the tough North End of Winnipeg and Bill was born in November, 1921, the third youngest of thirteen children.
Bill’s first skates were a pair of hand-me-downs from an older brother, that were so big he wore them over his shoes. Speed skating became Bill’s first passion, winning numerous local skating championships. But he soon moved on to hockey and played for hours on end at their local Tobans rink as well as on the ice-covered streets of Winnipeg, often using frozen horse turds for pucks.
Bill began his hockey career with the Winnipeg Monarchs at the age of 18, but turned pro the next season with the Providence Reds of the AHL so he could send money home to his parents, never losing sight of the fact that he was the main provider for his family.
He was scouted by both the Chicago Black Hawks and New York Rangers and Blueshirts fans should not be surprised to learn that just like Gordie Howe a few years later, they let Mosienko slip through their fingers. Bill was scheduled to report to the Rangers tryout camp but when Chicago defenseman Joe Cooper noticed Bill at a local rink, he sent a telegram to Black Hawk management, highly recommending the speedy youngster. The Black Hawks added Bill to their negotiation list, gave him a tryout and signed him as a free agent in October 1940.
DiLello then takes the reader through Bill’s quick accent through the minor leagues up to the National Hockey League, Ironically Bill scored his first two NHL goals 20-seconds apart against “Sugar Jim” Henry of the Rangers on February 8, 1942. Two seasons later when Johnny Gottselig took over as the Black Hawks’ coach in1944, Mosienko was teamed with Doug and Max Bentley to form the Pony Line, one of the most productive trios of that era.
The book is filled with stories and anecdotes from the many friends, teammates and opposing players Ty interviewed and is liberally illustrated with family photos of Bill’s life both on and off the ice. And of course, there is also a detailed description of Bill’s record-setting three goals in 21 seconds against Lorne Anderson and the Rangers on March 23, 1952.
DiLello, a member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, is surprised that more attention hasn’t been paid to Mosienko, “Considering how much of a world class of a hockey player he was, and how beloved he was in the hockey world, especially in Manitoba and Winnipeg where he was a hero to everyone and an amazing ambassador for the game of hockey here. I just hope more people take notice of Mosienko and read the full story on the great player and man that he was. He’s a lot more than just the answer to the trivia question of who scored the fastest three goals in NHL history.”
Mosienko: The Man Who Caught Lightning In A Bottle, is an engaging, informative read, I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the history of our game.
Mosienko: The Man Who Caught Lightning In A Bottle is available on Amazon.com