Jack Leswick was born on Jan. 1, 1910 in Humboldt, Saskatchewan to a family that seemed destined to play hockey. Two of his brothers, Pete and Tony, would play in the NHL to varying success.
Pete would play one game for the New York Americans in 1936-37, scoring one goal. He followed that NHL stint up with another one in 1944-45, when he played two games for the Boston Bruins, recording no points.
Tony would have much more success, playing 12 NHL seasons for the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. With the Red Wings, Tony would win the Stanley Cup in 1952, 1954 and 1955. He would score the final goal in the overtime of game seven in the 1954 final. He would play in the All-Star game in 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1952 and 1954 and be named to the NHL Second All-Star Team in 1950.
But this episode is not about Tony, it is about Jack.
While Pete would play only three games, and Tony would play 12 seasons, Jack falls in the middle with his NHL experience.
Jack would become one of the top players in the prairies of Canada in 1928-29 when he joined Roy and Jack Bentley on the Lloydminster Elks. According to Bill Skinner and John Tingley, there was never in their memory a hockey player with such an uncanny way with a stick. In one game against Vermilion, there was an altercation on the ice and the referee ruled that Lloydminster could only have one player and the goalkeeper on the ice for two minutes. Jack was the one sent over the boards and in those two minutes, despite being out-manned, he scored two goals and kept Vermilion away from the puck for the entire penalty. Thanks to Jack Leswick, Lloydminster would win the Intermediate A Championship of Alberta in 1929.
In 1929-30, he joined the Drumheller Miners of the Alberta Senior Hockey League and picked up 19 points in 11 games. According to the Edmonton Bulletin issue of Feb. 1, 1930, Leswick was leading the league in points with 19, three more than the Charlie O’Neil in second. Leswick would be remembered for many years in the community. In an issue of the Drumheller Review published in 1934, it was said that “Jack was a big factor in the Miners coming out of the league cellar and to the top of the heap.” After leaving Drumheller at the end of the season, the team was unable to replicate its championship success.
Beginning with three-and-half seasons with the Duluth Hornets of the AHA Jack would have immediate success in that league. In his first season he had two points in nine games, followed by 31 points in 43 games in 1930-31, 16 points in 35 games in 1931-32 and 40 points in 41 games in 1932-33. During his last season with Duluth, he was the leading scorer in the league. He would begin the 1934 season with the Kansas City Greyhounds, registering six points in eight games, before being called up to play with the Chicago Black Hawks. He would play in 37 games, scoring one goal and picking up seven assists. That stat total would put him eighth on the team in scoring. His play would help the Chicago Black Hawks win the Stanley Cup that year. He earned the nickname Newsy with the Black Hawks, possibly due to his stellar play that compared him with legendary player Newsy Lalonde. He also earned himself a contract to play for the Hawks the next season.
It is likely that Jack would have had a longer NHL career if not for the circumstances of the off-season. His body was found in August of 1934 in the Assiniboine River without a wallet or valuables, including a gold watch from the Black Hawks that he always wore. Jack had been in Winnipeg for three weeks on vacation during the off-season. His body was identified by Leroy Golosworthy and Lola Couture, both members of the Black Hawks. It was not known what happened but the Winnipeg Coroner suspected it was either an accident or suicide. In an article published in the Winnipeg Tribune, it was stated that his brother Peter felt that he was the victim of murder or robbery. While his valuables were gone, the body showed no marks from violence. His brother rejected that Jack took his own life saying, “He was aggressive in character and suicide would be the farthest thing from his mind.”
In a strange twist of fate, his body was pulled from the river by some swimmers. One of the swimmers was Cecil Fonton, who lived in Drumheller and watched Leswick play on the ice for the hometown team.
In an issue of the Drumheller Review of Aug. 1, 1934, Leswick had been missing for five days when his body was found. He had only visited Drumheller a few months previous to his death.
As the article on his death said, “Fans will always have the pleasant memory of Gentleman Jack, the young chap who electrified thousands with his stellar performances on the steel blades and with the hockey stick.”
Information for this piece comes from Wikipedia, HockeyDB, the Edmonton Bulletin, the Drumheller Review, 75 Years of Lloydminister Hockey, The Winnipeg Tribune, Greatest Hockey Legends