Sam LoPresti’s ship was torpedoed off the coast of Europe in World War II and he and 25 shipmates survived, climbed into lifeboat, and were adrift in the Atlantic Ocean for 42 days. Sam dived overboard at one point to kill a large dolphin, which the crew used to stay alive. When they final washed up on land it was … in Brazil. They had crossed the entire ocean, 2500 miles.
And that’s just a part of the Sam LoPresti story. He was born (in 1917) and raised at the Elcor Location on the Iron Range; a thriving mining community it, like other locations, was eventually abandoned and is now a ghost town. He played goalie for Eveleth High School, inspired by Frank Brimsek and Mike Karakas, who both went on to play in the NHL. Sam then signed with the St. Paul Saints of the American Hockey Association.
The Chicago Blackhawks picked him up and on March 4, 1941, he set an NHL record that still stands with 81 saves in a loss to Boston. The opposing goalie was his old Eveleth buddy, “Mr. Zero” Frank Brimsek.
He was Chicago’s goalie the next season, then signed up to fight with the U.S. Navy’s Armed Guard. He was aboard a supply ship headed to England when torpedoes hit. Sam never played in the NHL after the war, and eventually returned to the Range.
The great part about this for me was … Sam owned a bar in Virginia, Minn., when I worked at the Mesabi Daily News in the early 1980s. I called him up to take part in a “celebrity” football prediction deal we had at the paper, and he invited me down to meet him. And that’s where I first heard the story about his Atlantic nightmare.
The great Maroosh, in typical Range humor, used to tease Sammy about his “ocean cruise” during the war, and Sammy would lash back in his high pitched voice. Those two were a show. Sammy died in 1984, but got a chance to see his son, Peter, play five seasons for the North Stars.
Sam and Pete were the first father-son goalie duo in NHL history.