The Detroit Mob & The NHL: Michigan Gangster Masterminded Biggest Professional Hockey Fix Ever W/ Bruins Duo

Deceased Detroit underworld figure and notorious mob front James (Jimmy Eyes) Tamer was at the center of the largest pro-hockey gambling scandal in North American sports history. Tamer, who died of natural causes in 2003 at the ripe old age of 91, was the Detroit mafia’s point man in Las Vegas in the 1970s. His fixing of Boston Bruins games in the 1947-1948 season shocked the NHL and ended with lifetime bans from the league for star players Don (Gabby) Gallinger and William (Billy the Kid) Taylor – seen above in a 1947 promotional photo.

Gallinger was a high-scoring center that led the Bruins into the Stanley Cup Finals as a rookie in 1943 (he finished third in the league’s Rookie of the Year vote) and then again in 1946 in a season in which he was the franchise’s point king. He anchored the Bruins’ so-called “Sprout Line” of the WWII era along with Bill Shill and Armand (Bep) Guidolin.

Like Gallinger, Taylor was also a center. He was known as a master of the set-up and his seven assists in a single game in the 1947 season was an NHL record until it was broken by Wayne Gretzky in the 1980s. Taylor started his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, winning a Stanley Cup with the organization in 1942. Traded to the Detroit Red Wings in 1946, he not only provided his new employers with 46 assists in the forthcoming campaign but became friendly with “Jimmy Eyes” Tamer, a local Lebanese bookie and convicted bank robber connected to the area’s Italian mob family, a fact that proved bothersome to Wings’ management.

According to one Michigan State Police document from 1955, Tamer was groomed in the Motown rackets during Prohibition by eventual mafia leader Peter (Horseface Pete) Licavoli. As Licavoli began spending more and more time in Arizona in the late 1940s and 1950s, Tamer was moved into a crew belonging to Detroit mob capo Pietro (Machine Gun Pete) Corrado, the brother-in-law of the crime family’s don, Giuseppe (Joe Uno) Zerilli. Tamer was close friends with Zerilli’s nephew and eventual-successor Giacomo (Black Jack) Tocco and Corrado’s sons, Dominic (aka “Fats”) and Anthony (aka “Tony the Bull”), a pair of future mafia captains in Tocco’s regime.

Per state police sources of the day, Taylor’s stay in the Motor City was brief because the Red Wings worried about his unsavory social companions and the belief that he was spending too much time with those in the gambling world. In the summer of 1947, the Red Wings shipped him off to Boston, where he met and became teammates with Gallinger. The pair lived in the same apartment complex in Beantown and were post-game drinking buddies. After a couple months of knowing each other, Taylor convinced Gallinger to begin fixing games with him for Tamer back in Detroit.

Essentially, Tamer paid Taylor and Gallinger to dump, lose games on purpose. Throughout late 1947 and early 1948, they fixed eight games, betting as much as $1,000 per thrown contest. By January 1948, police informants in both Detroit and Boston were talking of a fix involving Tamer and two Bruins’ players.

Bruins’ officials sensed something suspicious in Gallinger and Taylor’s poor performance. Taylor was quickly traded to the New York Rangers. The next month, Tamer was caught on a Detroit Police Department-installed bug placed on his home phone talking to Gallinger and Taylor in separate conversations the same late afternoon regarding a game that was to be fixed that evening between Boston and the Chicago Blackhawks.

“How are things going out there?” Tamer is heard asking Gallinger on the other line from a Windy City hotel room.

“Don’t worry about anything tonight….I don’t intend to do so good, so put down $500 bucks for me,” Gallinger told him.

The Detroit Police detectives investigating the fix brought then-NHL Commissioner Clarence Campbell the transcript from the Tamer wiretap in late February. On March 9, Campbell suspended Gallinger and Taylor indefinitely, pending a full inquiry conducted by the league. That September, Campbell banned them both from the NHL for life. The ban would go on to be lifted more than 20 years later in 1970.

Tamer was never arrested for his role overseeing the conspiracy. However, he was convicted of hidden ownership in Las Vegas’ Aladdin Hotel & Casino in August 1979 and penciled into the Nevada Gaming Board’s Black Book, getting himself barred from all of the state’s casinos in the years that ensued.

FBI agents watched on at a number of dinner meetings in Detroit between Tamer and mob capo Vito (Billy Jack) Giacalone (the Zerilli-Tocco crime family’s lieutenant in charge of looking after activities in Vegas) where Giacalone, a man suspected of ordering or personally committing dozens of gangland slayings, gave Tamer direct orders as to how to run the Aladdin. Tamer, who couldn’t get licensed by the gaming board because of his criminal background, was officially listed as the casino’s Entertainment Director.

Gallinger died in 2000. Taylor passed away in 1990. Besides the 1948 NHL game-fixing scandal, members of the Detroit underworld linked to the upper-echelon of the city’s mafia syndicate have been tied to alleged pro game-fixing in the NFL (1950s-early-60s Detroit Lions) and the NBA (late-1980s Detroit Pistons) too.

"Jimmy Eyes" Tamer

“Jimmy Eyes” Tamer

Leave a Reply