Jack Portland

This neat cartoon tells us a lot about what we need to know about Jack Portland, NHL defenseman from 1933 through 1943. He was best known for playing with the Boston Bruins, along side defensive linemate Eddie Shore. He also had two stints with the Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks. All told he played 381 NHL games (and 33 more in the playoffs), scoring 15 goals and 71 points (1 goal and 4 points in the playoffs).

As the cartoon states, jumping to professional hockey must have been quite the adjustment for Portland. The native of Collingwood, Ontario apparently never played any serious level of organized hockey prior to turning pro! The only statistical reference for Portland playing prior to joining the Montreal Canadiens in 1933 was a season with the Collingwood Combines in an Ontario senior league!

Perhaps Portland was too busy pursuing other athletic pursuits such as track and field. He participated in the high jump and triple jump events at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He was the national high jump champion in 1930, 1931 and 1932 and finished in 7th place in the LA Games. Not bad considering he was completely self taught.

From there he went on to the NHL, but only after eschewing opportunities to play pro football both in Canada and the United States. He was also a notable baseball player. The Montreal Canadiens signed Portland at the recommendation of former NHL player turned scout Bert Corbeau.

In the NHL Portland was always overshadowed by flashier stars such as Shore. He was a rugged, capable defender, burly and heavy at well over 200lbs. He was far from the fastest or most agile skater. In fact when he broke into the league he looked so awkward that he heard the cat calls from Montreal fans. That led to his departure from Montreal. He really found his game in Boston where he helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 1939.

World War II ended his career prematurely. He left to serve in the Canadian military in 1943. Unlike a lot NHL players who served in World War II, it appears Portland did not play with military teams during his service time. There is no statistical evidence to suggest he did play.

He attempted to return to the ice in 1946, but was cut by the Montreal Canadiens. Interestingly, though he was not bitter about being cut, he never set foot in the Montreal Forum again until 1990 when he attended a game between Montreal and Boston.


Derek 11:23 AM  

Boston acquired big Jack Portland from Montreal. Montreal’s Dandurand, on the sale of Jack Portland, defenceman, to Boston Bruins, for $7500.00: The deal was made, he said, because the club could not afford to develop Portland, although he regarded him as potentially a great player.
It even appeared that Ross had basically given up on him and was willing to trade him. He was a big man and Bruins liked strength and toughness but he obviously needed a lot of work in other areas. He spent the first two seasons with Boston’s farm team, the Boston Cubs where I am sure head coach and former defensive star, Lionel Hitchman, taught him some things about the position. In 1936-37 they put him alongside the great Eddie Shore and almost immediately articles such as this appeared:
“The Bruins, when they get in shape, will be a mighty threat for they are a powerful looking lot and have about the biggest defense in the league. Portland looked like a far better player than ever before and the year he spent in the Can-Am seems to have made him.”
“Big Jack Portland, tallest defense player in the N. H. L. has become a regular only this season at Boston and is playing sensational hockey.”
Hooley Smith in 1936-37 made this statement:
"There is no doubt in my mind," said Hooley, "but what Portland will be the outstanding defenceman in the league before another season rolls around. He has all the makings of a topnotcher and right now you have to tell him only a few things in the heat of a game. A lot of people thought the Bruins would not be very close to the leaders at all this season, but Portland and Getliffe are two reasons why we are close now and will be when the Stanley Cup is being handed out."
Boston Bruins possess the biggest defense in the NHL in point of size. Jack Portland, who was once high jump champion of Canada is rated the most improved of the junior defensemen in the NHL. With Bruins, Portland looks a tower of strength, and this can be turned into a pun, for Portland towers six feet four.
Portland would drop the gloves on occasion. Portland was not that fast but if the pace was slow he would crunch you into the boards. When the Kraut line arrived on the scene in 1937-38 Clapper moved back to defense. In Shore, Clapper, Portland and Hollet Boston had the best defense in the league.

When Brimsek was praised about his accomplishments early in the 1938-39 season he stated: “It's easy to understand when you consider the kind of defence I have in front of me," Brimsek said last night in the dressing room after Bruins had defeated Montreal Canadiens 1-0. He nodded toward burly Jack Portland, Dit Clapper, Jack Crawford and Eddie Shore.
“Give a goaler the kind of protection those fellows give me and anybody would look good,” he said. He’s had four shutouts in six games.

When the Montreal Gazette, a knowledgeable hockey paper, was asked to give their all-star list in 1938-39 they picked Clapper on the first team and Shore and Portland on the 2nd team. Therefore believing Boston had 3 of the 4 best defensemen in the NHL. Stating Shore and Portland, is a defensive unit that has teamed together all season, leave few openings for rival attackers.
In 1939-40 Jack Crawford’s star started shining brightly and Portland was traded in a straight deal for Des Smith. I am not sure why Portland was traded as he still seemed pretty good.

Derek 11:24 AM  

If, and when, Eddie Shore returns to the Boston Bruins line-up for their National Hockey league battles, the happiest member of Art Ross's troupe of stick-handlers will be Jack Portland, familiarly known to his mates as Tarzan, the 24-year-old, 200 pound 6 feet 2 inch giant who has been stamped one of the best major league defense prospects in years.
The former Olympic high-jumper and all-round athlete has been a Shore hero-worshipper for years. In the first professional hockey game Portland ever saw, Shore was an outstanding figure and right then and there, the big Canadian youngster decided he was going to turn his massive frame to hockey, be a defense man like Shore and play as much like Shore as he could.
When athlete fate placed him on the same team as Eddie Shore he said simply: "I guess I'm the happiest and luckiest fellow in the world."
In the winter of 1930, Portland a gawky lad who was spending all his spare time learning how to high jump from Dink Templeton's book, hitch-hiked 90 miles to Toronto from Collingwood, his home town, to see the great Shore and his Boston Bruins play Toronto.
So attracted was the 18-year-old lad by the brilliant play of the great defenseman that he decided then and there to become a professional hockey player, a defense man if possible. “That was the first professional game I ever saw," remarked Portland recently, "and it always has been my ambition, since that night, to play beside Shore. It seems like a dream that we are finally together”.
But before Jack turned his back on the amateur ranks, he first had to master the “western roll” style of high jump as demonstrated by Templeton, famous Leland Stanford coach. He had set his mind on making the 1932 Olympic team and although he did concentrate on hockey during the winters, he stuck to his high-jumping until the summer of ’32.
He qualified for the final Canadian try-outs by winning the Dominion high school crown, and amazed Canadian track and field followers at Hamilton by clearing 6 feet 4 3-4 inches to become Canada's No.1 Olympic jumping hope.
But at Los Angeles, a bad case of nerves struck him. He cleared only 6 feet 2 inches, gave up high-jumping for all time, and swung into professional hockey with Montreal Canadiens in 1933. He was traded to Bruins, and after seasoning in the minor professional league has become a powerful asset on the Bruin defence, fast, fearless, clean, but a heavy body-checker. He attributes his improved form to Lionel Hitchman and Shore, who has taken a great interest in him.

Anonymous,  9:54 PM  

I met Jack Portland iin the 80"s . I was a good friend of his Granddaughter. Such a nice man,my friend commented that he had played in the NHL many years ago. After hearing some of his hockey stories he showed us his permanently bruised chins! No hockey pads,helmets back then. Very cool to meet him,

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