Mike Karakas was the first American-born goalie to star in the NHL. He was lauded for having one of the quickest glove hands in hockey along with outstanding balance. In eight NHL seasons he recorded 28 shutouts and a goals against average of 2.82. Karakas recorded three blank sheets in the post-season and was considered at his best in key games. He handled the puck well and was always quick to credit his defence after a strong game.
A native of Aurora, Minnesota, Karakas joined the Chicago Black Hawks in 1935-36 after apprenticing with the Chicago Shamrocks, St. Louis Flyers and Tulsa Oilers. He was awarded the Calder Memorial trophy after posting a 1.92 goals-against mark and nine shutouts. Two years later he recorded a pair of playoff shutouts while leading the Hawks to an unexpected Stanley Cup championship after finishing with a losing record in the regular season. This achievement was even greater considering Karakas missed the first two games with a broken toe and eventually led the Hawks to their triumph wearing a cast.
Karakas returned to the NHL in 1943-44 after starring with the Providence Reds of the AHL. Earlier he was the hero when the Reds won the Calder Cup in 1941. He led all NHL netminders with four shutouts in 1944-45 and was a post-season selection to the NHL second all-star team. He retired from the NHL following the 1945-46 season but continued to perform heroics in net for Providence until the conclusion of the 1948-49 season.
The talented Minnesotan recorded 114 career regular season wins and helped lead the way for future American born and trained goalkeepers. During his six NHL seasons he appeared in every one of Chicago's games and earned the nickname "Iron Mike". Karakas' immense contribution to the game in his native country was recognized when he was named as an original member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.