Maryland Hockey History: The Best American Team Ever


1942-43 Coast Guard Cutters/ Photo via Department of Defense

With the Naval Academy being the background for this weekend’s Stadium Series, it’d be the perfect time to bring up what could be the greatest team in the history of Maryland hockey, as well as the greatest team a Service Academy has produced and one of the greatest amateur teams around– the United States Coast Guard Cutters who were based out of Curtis Bay, Maryland and played their games at Carlin’s Iceland in Baltimore.

Though they only played for two seasons in the Eastern League, they were extremely competitive, even in practice– when they had intra-squad games that some said were brutal massacres. Special ambulances were there for the practices and games for this reason, while also having the 30-piece marching band to follow the team around. The team started a riot in Philadelphia that started on the ice, went into the stands, and made the riot police show up to break it up.

And while they played in an “amateur” hockey league, the roster was anything but. Rangers captain Art Coutler, Boston goalie Frank Brimsek, Chicago defensemen John Mariucci and Manny Cotlow, as well as Detroit’s Alex Motter were amongst the NHLers who enlisted in the Coast Guard and then joined up to play hockey for the team as a stress reliever.

The Cutters won two National Championships in their time around the Eastern League, they defeated the Allan Cup (Canadian Amateur champions) Ottawa Commandos, while also taking on the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings– though they lost 8-3 in that game.

Much like the Orioles at Carlin’s before them, the Cutters were loved by the Baltimore crowd, but loathed by everyone else. Their all-out, take-no-prisoner style was endearing to some, but it’s something you didn’t want to play against or see have played against your team. With all the talent, they were hard-pressed to be outworked, out-disciplined, or outplayed on every night.

However, with this team being the focus during war time, the higher-ups in the academy didn’t take too kindly to others sacrificing plenty overseas while this team was still playing and not being deployed like the other servicemen. After two seasons– one of which was ended 11 games into the season– the team was broken up due to the need for reinforcements during the end of World War II.

While this team is often forgotten due to time and circumstances, their greatness is something that should be remembered. Especially with this game not only being played at the Naval Academy, but also since the Olympics were just held– this team could be the greatest American team compiled of their era.

For more on this– check out the long-read from the Coast Guard Hockey Organization, as well as the story from Stan Fischler when he was with The Hockey News.

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