"Old Time Hockey" With The Chicago Blackhawks

(left) DU Alum Keith Magnuson was one of the toughest players in the NHL in the 1970's

From: Chicago Tribune
by John Kass

With the Stanley Cup finals between the Blackhawks and Flyers getting more physical by the game, I got an interesting call from a former hockey doc.

"I don't think the spectators, if they've never played hockey themselves, truly understand the mentality of the hockey players, how they disregard pain and their own doctor's orders," said Dr. Antonio Ramos when I met him in his office in the Pilsen neighborhood.

Ramos, now 85 and retired, was a surgeon at the now-defunct Henrotin Hospital, the unofficial Blackhawks trauma center. That led to his hobby, stitching up Blackhawks as one of several team doctors in the old days.

"There was Tony Esposito, the goalie, getting a stick inside his mouth that ripped it up, with incredible trauma, and going back to play," said Ramos.

"And Bobby Hull years ago, in the playoffs with Montreal, struck in the face with a puck, the entire bone structure of the face having disintegrated, and playing," Ramos said. "And of course, there was DU alum Keith Magnuson."

Ramos' colleague was a plastic surgeon, Dr. Randall McNally. Now 80 and retired, McNally remembers Magnuson literally fighting to get back on the ice.

Magnuson's jaw had been broken in two places. The trainer, Skip Thayer, had Magnuson flat on his back on one of the training tables.

"His (jaw) bone was exposed through the skin, and he had a bad laceration," said McNally. "I looked to Magnuson and said, 'You're done, Keith.' "

Magnuson hated how that sounded. He wanted to play.

"Magnuson got up and started trading punches with Skip because he wanted to return immediately," McNally said. "They were really going at it. To his credit, Skip did not punch him in the face, just the body."

Eventually, doctors were able to convince Magnuson that going back out onto the ice with his jawbone protruding from his cheek wasn't such a good idea.

"There's the unwritten old hockey rule," Blackhawks great Stan Mikita told me. "No matter how hard you get hit, you get up and take your next shift on the ice. If you've got a broken leg, you'll fall and then you'll know it. But you take that next turn."

Mikita said there were good hockey docs and bad hockey docs.

"The good ones would stitch you up so you could get back on the ice and play," Mikita said. "If you really want to hear some hockey doc stories, you better call another DU Alum Cliff Koroll. If you don't like them, then you have no sense of humor."

As a rookie out of the University of Denver, Koroll, now president of the Blackhawks alumni organization, was sent to a Blackhawks farm team. He met his team on the road and was warned about the other team's doctor. Home-ice doctors often treated both teams.

"One of the guys said, if you get cut tonight, then you better get cut early," Koroll recalled. "It turned out the other team's doc liked to drink a little bit, and the longer the game went, the drunker he got."

As the game ended, Koroll took a stick above the eye. With blood running down his face, he was dispatched to the other team's training room.

"I'm laying on the table when I hear ice clinking in a glass," Koroll said. "The old guy's walking down the hall. He hits one wall, hits the other wall, staggers up to me with a scotch in his hand and starts stitching."

Later, Koroll met his teammates at a local night spot where they rehydrated themselves. Then it was back to the hotel for much-needed sleep. But all Koroll could do was stare at the ceiling.

"I remember telling my roommate, 'Jimmy, I can't sleep, I can't close my eyes.' I go into the bathroom to take a look. Do you know what the doctor did? He'd stitched my eyelid to my eyebrow. That's why I couldn't close my eye."

Koroll freed his eyelid with manicure scissors, went to sleep and got treatment at a hospital the next morning.

Later, when he was called up to the Blackhawks, Koroll's mouth was hit with a stick, tearing the heck out of it, and it wouldn't stop bleeding.

The man who stitched him up that night was Dr. Myron Tremaine, the head team doctor and brother-in-law of Hawks patriarch Arthur Wirtz.

"He puts a few stitches in and starts tying a knot. Then somebody got hurt upstairs and he runs off and throws his rubber gloves on the floor and drops the scissors. The needle and the thread were resting on the Indian head logo on my jersey."

When Tremaine returned, he picked the gloves from the floor, but couldn't find the needle.

"He's searching for the needle, it gets caught in his coat sleeve, and when he turns away, he starts dragging me across the table by my lip. I'm crawling after him, grunting like a pig trying to tell him, stop, stop, but he pulls a chunk of meat right out of my mouth."

The old Hawks I talked to respectfully remember McNally and Ramos, but they weren't too fond of Tremaine. It was probably the brother-in-law-of-the-boss thing.

"Wasn't he a gynecologist?" asked Bobby Hull.

No, I said, he was a surgeon.

"A gynecologist, that's what I heard," said Mikita.

No, a surgeon.

"Well, if he wasn't a gynecologist," said Koroll, "then why were there stirrups on the end of the training table?"