One hundred years ago, in 1917, the National Hockey League was formed.
Fifteen years later, the first Red Deer hockey player joined the NHL. He was Oscar ‘Ossie’ Asmundson.
Oscar Ingolfur ‘Ossie’ Asmundson was born on a farm near Markerville on Nov. 17th, 1908, the son of August and Anna Johnson Asmundson.
When he was three months old, the family moved into Red Deer.
Ossie began playing hockey when he was nine years old, and soon distinguished himself as a talented player. He normally played as a forward. According to his brother John, Ossie had been somewhat bow-legged as a child, which may have been the reason why he never played goal.
By the mid-1920s, Ossie was playing intermediate hockey.
He was a member of the Red Deer hockey club which won the Alberta championship in 1925-26, the first sports team in the history of the City to attain such an honour.
In the spring of 1926, he got a job in the Campbell, Wilson and Horne grocery warehouse in Red Deer, but in the fall he went to the Coast where he started playing hockey in Portland, Oregon.
He played briefly in Vancouver and then with the Los Angeles Maroons in the California Professional Hockey League. In 1928, he played for the Victoria Cubs in the Pacific Coast Hockey League and stayed with the team until 1930 when he was drafted to the Tacoma Tigers.
He was sold to the league champions, the Vancouver Lions, in January 1931.
Ossie really distinguished himself while playing in Vancouver, being the second highest goal scorer on the team and the fifth best in the Pacific Coast League.
He caught the attention of the famous Lester and Frank Patrick. In October 1931, he was acquired by Lester Patrick for the New York Rangers.
In the fall of 1931, he was playing for the New York Rangers’ farm team, the Bronx Tigers in the Canadian-American League. Although he missed a number of games due to injuries, he managed to place fifth in the League for goals and assists. He was consequently named to the League’s all star team.
Following his success with the Tigers, he started playing for the Rangers in October 1932, thereby becoming the first person from Red Deer to play in the NHL.
The Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the 1932-1933 season, making Ossie the first Red Deer person to become a Stanley Cup champion.
He got very good press in the New York newspapers.
One sports writer commented, “He’s a nifty right-winger and does many things that remind one of Bill Cook in action. Ossie has a terrific shot, has all kinds of fighting spirit, and ought to go far in pro hockey.”
On May 5th, 1933, the Red Deer Board of Trade hosted a large banquet to honour the hometown hero.
Ossie regaled the crowd with his stories about the NHL, the players, the fans, the arenas, the training sessions at Lake Placid and the stand-out games.
Ossie continued to play for the Rangers in 1933-34, but had only two goals and six assists that season, much lower than his record for the previous year.
In October 1934, he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings and played for them for one season. In 1935, he started playing for the St. Louis Eagles, an NHL team.
After a brief period with the New Haven Eagles, he played for the New York Americans, also an NHL team, in 1936-37. In February 1938, he started his last stint in NHL as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
In October 1938, he started playing with the Cleveland Barons of the International (later American) Hockey League.
In 1941, his team won the Calder Cup.
He later played with the Providence Reds and Philadelphia Rockets before joining the Washington Lions for the 1942-43 season.
During the Second World War, he joined the Coast Guard reserves in California, but continued to play hockey with the Coast Guard Cutters.
He played his last league hockey with a Hollywood team in 1944-45.
Ossie passed away from a heart attack on Nov. 2nd, 1964 in Sun Valley, California. Predeceased by his father and brother John, he was survived by his two daughters, Audrey and Ava, his mother, his sister, Anna Goodacre and numerous nephews and nieces.