On the first day of spring, 1952, the last-place Chicago Black Hawks took the Friday train to Toronto for a Saturday night game against the Maple Leafs. Nine-year Hawks vet Bill Mosienko was wrapping up his best offensive season since his rookie year and, having the night off, decided to look up an old friend. They got together for a drink, a meal and a gab session that rainy evening, then relaxed around a collection of hockey books.
“We were thumbing through the NHL record book,” Mosienko recalled a few days later, “and I remarked how nice it would be to have my name in there with some of the hockey greats. But I just figured it would never happen – and then it did, 48 hours later.”
After the Saturday night in Toronto, a game in which Mosienko scored two goals, including the winner, in a 3-2 upset the third-place Maple Leafs, the Black Hawks left immediately for the season finale in New York on Sunday, March 23, 1952.
Because it was a match of two non-playoff teams, the Rangers closed the mezzanine and balcony at Madison Square Garden, leaving just the arena bowl open for about 6,000 spectators.
“That had to be the smallest crowd in the history of the New York Rangers,” said long-time hockey journalist Stan Fischler, who was 19 at the time and vice-president of the Rangers fan club. “It was a meaningless game not seen by a lot of people. The Rangers even put in their third-string goalie because Chuck Rayner and Emile Francis were worn down.”
New York held a comfortable 6-2 third-period lead when Mosienko went about putting himself in the record books with some of the hockey greats.
He took a Gus Bodnar setup and shot past 20-year-old third-stringer Lorne Anderson at 6:09 of the third. Bodnar won the next faceoff, ragged the puck a few seconds, then fed a streaking Mosienko, who had split the defense. Mosienko beat Anderson at 6:20. On the next faceoff, Bodnar won the puck over to left winger George Gee, who laid a timing pass to Mosienko for another goal at 6:30 to narrow the score to 6-5 – and set the record for the fastest hat trick in NHL history.
Remarkably, Chicago coach Ebbie Goodfellow kept the Bodnar line on the ice for another post-goal faceoff against the reeling Rangers.
“Bodnar won the draw again,” Fischler recalled, “somehow got the puck to ‘Mosie’ and he took a shot that rang off the post. It could have easily been four goals in 28 seconds.”
Legend has it, when Mosienko skated to the bench after that shot off the iron, Goodfellow barked at him: “What the heck happened? You in a slump?”
Chicago scored two more goals and went on to win 7-6. For Anderson, it was the third and final game of his career. He spent most of that 1951-52 season with the Eastern League’s New York Rovers, but after the five-goal shell-shocking in the third period, he didn’t return to pro hockey.
“The entire feat seemed to slip by under the radar,” Fischler said. “In those days, there were no post-game press conferences, there was no TV. And because it was a nothing game, there wasn’t much of a media report from the game.”
The passage of time, however, has turned Mosienko’s three goals in 21 seconds into a mythical achievement destined never to be broken. Scores of players since have scored two goals in 17 seconds or less, but none have been able to eclipse the 21-second hat trick.
The closest anyone has come to that since is 44 seconds by Jean Beliveau in 1955. Mosienko’s three goals in 21 seconds bettered Carl Liscombe’s 1938 record of three goals in 64 seconds.
Said Mosienko, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1965: “It was something to dream about.”