Norm Locking Chicago Black Hawks & Former Owen Sound Grey

Norm Locking Chicago Black Hawks & former Owen Sound Grey was known for his hard and deadly shot in Al Capone's Chicago.


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The Great Lakes Raconteur

The thought of a Chicago Blackhawk left-winger wearing the number nine on his jersey, roaring down the ice and unloading a blistering shot, brings the name Bobby Hull immediately to mind. 

But almost a quarter of a century before the Golden Jet terrorized opposition goalies with his blistering shot, Chicago hockey fans watched in amazement as their number nine of the 1935 Hawks, Norm Locking, introduced his blazing slapshot to the goaltenders in the National Hockey League. 

Norm Locking Chicago Black HawksNorm Locking Chicago Black Hawks - Paul White Hockey Photograph Collection

Locking is considered by hockey historians to be the first player to use a slapshot in the NHL. However, his version was somewhat different than that of today’s hard shooting snipers. 

Locking drew his stick back a few inches from the puck and, with terrific wrist action and forearm strength, sent the puck zipping towards the net at speeds few goalies had witnessed at that time. What made this shot even more amazing was that Locking never lifted his stick off the ice. 

Locking played his junior career with the Owen Sound Greys. In his final year of junior hockey, Locking, and the Greys reached the OHA semi-finals. The next season, at age 19, Locking was playing professional hockey. 

He signed a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs but spent most of the 1931-32 season with the Pittsburgh Yellowjackets. At the end of the first season, he was traded to the Chicago Black Hawk organization. 

During the next few seasons, he toiled in the minors waiting for his break. After several call-ups to Chicago, it was not until the 1935-36 season that he played an entire season with the Blackhawks. To a young man from the relatively quiet community of Owen Sound, the lifestyle Of Al Capone's Chicago must have been quite amazing. 

Locking recalled later in life that he had been in Chicago when the St. Valentine's Day Massacre occurred. He said that a few days later, he went with some teammates to the site and saw bloodstains still on the ground. 

After his full season with Chicago, Locking played briefly with teams in St. Paul, Minnesota; London, Ontario; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and finally, the Syracuse Stars. The Stars traded Locking to the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League. 

An indication of how much Cleveland valued Locking's hockey talents can be seen by what they traded to acquire his services. They gave Syracuse three players and a large sum of cash. 

While with Cleveland, he enjoyed considerable success. Four times he was selected to the AHL's First All-Star Team. In 1941, Norm Locking became the first player in the history of the AHL to score 100 career goals. 

Norm Locking was a fan favorite in Cleveland. His slapshot and timely goals led to a saying around the Cleveland arena: "Opportunity is knocking...and is answered by Locking!" 

Many sports fans often wondered why Locking never returned to the NHL. Certainly, his swift skating and hard shot which had given him so much scoring success would have helped him play in the NHL. 

It was learned later that Cleveland had purchased his NHL rights and was paying him $5,000 a season, a total which was the equivalent of a big league salary. 

In 1943 Locking retired from professional hockey. He moved to Port Elgin and took a job as a salesman with Stevens-Hepner. He regained his amateur card allowing him to coach and play for the Intermediate Port Elgin Keystones. 

After the intermediate team folded in Port Elgin, Locking became an OHA referee.

One season he refereed in the Memorial Cup finals. His abilities as a referee came to the attention of the AHL. They offered him an opportunity to return to the professional ranks as a referee. Locking turned down this opportunity in order to continue living and working in Port Elgin. 

In 1972-73, after a 25-year absence from coaching, Locking returned to hockey as the coach of the Port Elgin Sunocos. 

A version of "Norm Locking Chicago Black Hawks & Former Owen Sound Grey," originally appeared in my Local History column in the February 17, 1997 edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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