From Rinks to Regiments – Hockey Hall-of-Famers and the Great War (by Alan Livingstone MacLeod)

Presented in association with the Society for International Hockey Research (SIHR). Thirty-two men enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame were also...
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  1. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    Book Title: From Rinks to Regiments: Hockey Hall-of-Famers and the Great War

    Author: Alan Livingstone MacLeod

    Publisher: Heritage House, 2018 From Rinks to Regiments - Heritage House Publishing

    Author Note: A. L. MacLeod is a Victoria-based author whose books have dealt with war, or hockey, or both. His first book, Remembered in Bronze and Stone (Heritage House, 2016), is an exploration of Canadian war memorials featuring a soldier statue. His second book, From Rinks to Regiments (Heritage House, 2018) relates the stories of men who are both members of the Hockey Hall of Fame and were soldiers in the Great War of 1914-18. This fall Heritage House will publish his third book, Capitals, Aristocrats and Cougars, the story of Lester Patrick's Victoria hockey professionals, 1911-1926.

    About From Rinks to Regiments: Thirty-two men enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame were also soldiers in the First World War. Not just hockey heroes, five of these men were awarded gallantry decorations. Four paid the ultimate price for answering the call of duty: they were killed in action. They were not all "fair-haired lads", either as hockey players or soldiers. Some had disciplinary issues and were subject to court-martial. Some were hospitalized due to wounds delivered by the enemy; others to be treated for sexually transmitted disease; a few managed to accomplish both. Two of the players were airmen, one a Canadian 'ace', the other the captain of the first Canadian team to win hockey gold. Another of the 32, a man who once scored 14 goals in a Stanley Cup game, is remembered on Canada's Vimy Monument, just one of 11,000 Canadians who died in France and have no known grave. Another came close to losing a leg at Vimy in April 1917 but endured to become a star in the NHL and the league's second president. This book brings to light the stories of a largely forgotten but entirely fascinating "band of brothers".

    Excerpt from "Second Period: Duke Keats: Even Capone Was a Fan"
    The most eye-catching item in Keats’ war service record is entered for 10 January 1918. On that day he was sentenced to 14 days Field Punishment No. 1, evidently for drunkenness. Soldiers loathed Field Punishment No. 1, and no wonder. One of its features was being tied to a wheel or other fixed object for two hours a day. Nothing else in Keats’s war record is so eventful. In March of 1919 he was aboard His Majesty’s Troopship Celtic, en route back to Canada.

    Keats moved west for the 1919-20 season and threw his lot with the Edmonton Eskimos of the amateur Big-4 league. It was the beginning of a productive collaboration. Over the course of seven years in the Alberta capital, two in the Big-4, five in a new pro circuit, the Western Canada Hockey League, Duke was an all-star five times. In 1921-22 he was a wunderkind. He tallied 31 goals, 24 assists in 25 games—a 55-point total that left the second-best scorer 22 points in arrears. In four of those seasons one of Keats’ teammates was Bullet Joe Simpson, a perennial all-star just like Keats.

    In 1926, now 31, Keats was dealt to the NHL Boston Bruins for cash. He played only briefly for the Bruins before being traded to Detroit for a player we will meet just ahead, Frank Fredrickson. Though not as gaudy as the numbers he had put together in Edmonton, Keats was effective in Detroit, scoring twelve times in 25 games with the Cougars.

    Just five games into the ‘27-28 season, with Jolly Jack Adams behind the Detroit bench, Duke took exception to having a fan throw a drink on him. He went into the stands and in the process of delivering retribution unto the fan Keats came close to injuring an innocent—Irene Castle, a famous actress of her time. Unsurprisingly, this made Duke persona non grata in Detroit; he was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks whose owner, Major Frederic McLaughlin, just happened to be the spouse of Irene Castle. Clearly, the Major harboured no grudge.

    The Iron Duke did well for himself in Chicago, with 14 goals and 22 points in his 32 games in the Windy City. He made new fans.

    One night, aggravated at being followed on the street by two men in dark suits, Keats turned on them and demanded to know what they were up to. No mischief, the men explained, “Mr. Capone just wants to make sure you get home safely, Duke.” Even America’s most famous gangster loved Keats.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by moderator Theokritos: Mar 21, 2021
  2. Theokritos Global Moderator

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    @A L MacLeod: Thanks for joining us! The Capone story is quite something.

    Do we know how many professional hockey players overall (Hall-of-Famers or not) from Canada were soldiers in World War I?
     
  3. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    In 1914 most hockey players were amateurs. Duke Keats was a rarity: the only man I have come across who identified his 'trade or calling' as hockey player at the time of his enlistment. Four hall-of-famers were killed in action during the war but a much greater number of players -- more than a hundred Canadians alone -- died in the war. I have two sets of images on Flickr devoted to hockey players who served in WWI. The first set deals with the hall-of-famers, both those who died and those who survived. The second set features images and accounts of players not in the HHoF who perished. Here are the links:
    1: Hockey & The Great War: The Hall-of-Famers
    2: Hockey & The Great War: Other than Hall-of-Famers
     
  4. sr edler i'm off to LA

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    Hi Alan, interesting topic for sure. WW1 is an interesting topic with or without the sports element, but I wonder if you've come across some instances where players directly compare the two experiences with each other. I have an example here below by amateur hockey star Coo Dion:

    "When we knew we were going into action I had about the same feeling that I used to have just
    before the whistle blew at a big hockey game. Then when things begin to hum, well you haven't time
    to think about being afraid."

    – Ottawa Citizen, Sept. 24, 1915 | Feeling like before a big hockey game

    When I've read some amateur hockey recollections from before or at the time of the Great War, this type of 'carefree' descriptive language or approach isn't entirely uncommon. I think this goes to the general zeitgeist at the time, right? I haven't read as much on WW2, but I would figure this type of approach died down a bit going forward. And today it would probably be considered highly insensitive and/or inappropriate to make such comparisons.
     
  5. kaiser matias Registered User

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    I wanted to comment on your upcoming book Capitals, Aristocrats and Cougars. Can you share any details on that as well? I'm always interested in reading about the PCHA, and as someone who grew up on Vancouver Island anything relating to the history of the game there is always neat as well.
     
  6. Theokritos Global Moderator

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    My bad, I should have written "top-level hockey players from Canada".

    A high number. The loss of so many players can't have failed to have a negative impact on the quality of play in the years immediately after the war.

    Thanks for the links.
     
  7. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    No, not very often have I come across observations such as Coo Dion's. Not one of the 32 men in the HHoF wrote a celebrated autobiography. Too bad. What a read such an autobiography would have been. One of the commonplaces of the war was that soldiers and others called it "the great game". There were no doubt myriad ways of coping with the horror. That was just one.

    Steve 'Coo' Dion's story is a fascinating one. He was seriously wounded at Festubert in the spring of 1915. The ship returning him to Canada was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Dion was lucky, he survived; 32 others did not.

    In 1908-09 he was the leading scorer with the Ottawa Cliffsides of the IPHL, with 22 goals in just six games. Connections between the war and hockey abound. One of Dion's teammates in 1908-09 was Alan Powell. By April 1918 he was Major Alan Powell of the 14th Battalion when he was killed in action. He was no ordinary soldier: Powell had been awarded a DSO -- Distinguished Service Order. Another of the '08-09 Cliffsides was Horace Merrill, who played seven seasons with the Ottawa Senators of the NHA and NHL. Merrill's teammates in Ottawa included Harry 'Punch' Broadbent and Percy LeSueur -- two of the 32 soldier-players treated in my book.
     
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  8. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    The full title of my next book is Capitals, Aristocrats and Cougars: The Life and Times of Victoria's Hockey Professionals, 1911-1926. The hook is hockey but this book is also a social history of this corner of Canada at that time. The players who skated for Lester Patrick's Victoria teams are another fascinating cast. Seven of them -- Patrick himself, Tommy Dunderdale, Ernie 'Moose' Johnson, Frank Foyston, Hap Holmes, Jack Walker and Frank Fredrickson are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Every member of this board likely knows that the 1925 Victoria Cougars was the last team not part of the NHL to win the Stanley Cup. Frank Fredrickson's story is particularly compelling. He was such a good flier that his RAF bosses decided his greatest value was as a test pilot and flying instructor. Like Coo Dion he narrowly survived the sinking of a ship by enemy action. He was the captain of the 1920 Canadian team that won the first Olympic gold medal. All but one member of that team was, like Fredrickson, an ethnic Icelander. In 1926-27, his first season in the NHL, he was the highest-paid pro in hockey, at $6,000. After his playing days he coached the Princeton Tigers. At Princeton he befriended a fellow named Albert Einstein.

    And that's just for starters.



    Happy in His Work.jpg
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2021
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  9. kaiser matias Registered User

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    That sounds even better. I see its scheduled for release in September, and definitley be ordering a copy.
     
  10. Theokritos Global Moderator

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    Alan, up until 1917 military service in Canada was voluntary, so the soldiers who went to fight in the war initially all did so by their own choice. Are there patterns as to who volunteered? Were particular social groups or areas of Canada overrepresented or underrepresented among the volunteers?
     
  11. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    In the early months of the war recruiters could barely keep up with the flood of men wanting to volunteer. Before anyone understood just how monstrous conditions at the Western Front were, young men rushed to enlist before they lost the opportunity to cover themselves in glory. There was a real worry that the war would be over by Christmas of 1914, or soon thereafter. Then the real horrors came to light: Second Ypres in the spring of 1915, Mont Sorrel in early June of 1916, the Somme a little later the same year. Eventually new recruiting could no longer keep up with what the generals called "the wastage of war". Conscription came about in 1917 to remedy that problem -- and it nearly blew the country apart. Quebeckers had not enlisted in anything like the same numbers that applied early on in the rest of the country. Conscription aggravated negative feelings towards the war. Quebeckers were strongly opposed but so were others: prairie farmers needed their sons at home, trade unionists were opposed too.

    Barely 15 percent of eligible Quebeckers volunteered for service. Close to 30 percent of eligible Maritimers enlisted, 38 percent in Ontario, more than 42 and 43 percent in Alberta and BC, respectively. Manitoba led the way: a little more than half of eligible Manitoba-born men enlisted.

    Not all 32 of the hall-of-famers who served as soldiers did so voluntarily. A small number of the 32 were conscripted in 1917 and 1918. But this minority mostly avoided major trouble. All four of the hall-of-famers who died were volunteers; no conscript came to serious harm.
     
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  12. sr edler i'm off to LA

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    Yes, this corresponds very much with the feeling I got from reading about and researching the amateur game in Winnipeg at that time, that quite a large number of players went to war, on some of the teams competing for the Allan Cup, the Winnipeg Hockey Club and the Winnipeg Victorias for instance. You had Ollie Turnbull, Bert Andrews, Dunny Munroe, et cetera from the Winnipeg Hockey Club, and Les Moffat, Charlie Belcher and Francis Caldwell on the Winnipeg Victorias. On some teams it felt more like a rule than an exception that players enlisted and took off. I hadn't seen any percentage numbers like that regarding provinces before, but from what I've come across in my own research I'm not at all surprised by Manitoba leading by that number. They had military teams competing in Division A of the MHA in 1915–16, and then an outright military league during the 1917–18 season.
     
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  13. Theokritos Global Moderator

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    Thanks for this. Interesting to see how the different provinces (and hockey provinces) were affected.

    My next question was going to be about hockey during the war, in particular after conscription started. From what I remember picking up (not sure whether it relates to WW1 or WW2 though), there were different sentiments on this issue. Some thought it was questionable if not offensive to have young healthy men play hockey games for spectators while their peers fought overseas, others considered it a needed relaxation that was good for the morale of the country.
     
  14. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    My sense from contemporary sources is that the former was more prevalent than the latter: that public opinion was inclined to the view that it was unseemly for young healthy men to be playing hockey in Canada while so many others -- including former hockey players -- were dying in the thousands at Vimy, Passchendaele, Arras and Amiens. Women handing out white feathers to shame those who had not enlisted would not have been deterred by the fact that some of their targets were celebrated hockey players. After conscription the authorities caught up with some of the reluctant players: HHoF members Dick Irvin, Frank Foyston and Jack Adams were among those who served only because they were conscripted. Thirty-two hall-of-famers served in the war. The number of HHoF members who did not -- men in the same age categories -- was about equal to those who volunteered.
     
  15. Sanf Registered User

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    This sounds very interesting and seems a must buy. (though sadly getting book overseas seems difficult). I love the era and it´s players. Also doing my own researches I have understood how big impact WWI had to hockey (among others) in Canada.

    I´m not surprised of those numbers of volunteers either (though never seen those and going only by gut feeling got from reading old newspapers). While doing my own researches it has been far more easy to find information from western papers. They seemed to follow more closely players war efforts. From east for example Percy LeSueur´s war time I know fairly little.

    Also from reading newspaper archives I have got the feeling that lot of players from Saskatchewan enlisted. Atleast four players from Regina Victorias Allan Cup winners from 1914 enlisted (Hick Abbott, McCulloch, Creswell and Otton) and atleast Jack Campbell and Boucher´s (were they brothers) from closeby seasons. And ton of other players from that league.
     
  16. sr edler i'm off to LA

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    Bob and Clarence Boucher of the 1916 Regina Victorias were brothers, yes. Originally from North Bay, Ontario. Bob died at Vimy Ridge in 1917. Clarence later plated briefly in the NHL with the New York Americans.
     
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  17. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    Take a look at my second relevant Flickr set, the one devoted to hockey players who never made it to the Hall of Fame, men who gave up hockey to go to war -- and never returned home. More than a hundred Canadian players lie in battlefield graves in Flanders and France, some in known graves, a good number in graves unknown. Twenty-one players are remembered on Canada's Monument to the Missing on Vimy Ridge. Only two of them -- Frank McGee and Scotty Davidson -- are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Another seven are honoured on the walls of Vimy's Belgian counterpart, the Menin Gate in Ypres. Hick Abbott is just one of the Western Canadians whose images and stories are reflected in that second Flickr set: 2: Hockey & The Great War: Other than Hall-of-Famers
     
  18. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    William Robert (Bob) Boucher was killed in action March 26, 1917, two weeks before the April 9 start of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. he was an officer in the 46th (South Saskatchewan) Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In contrast to the 28 former players remembered on the Vimy Ridge and Menin Gate monuments, Boucher has a known grave: he is one of 1,009 Canadians buried at Villers Station Cemetery, on the road from Arras to Bethune. He is not the only former hockey player buried there. There are at least four others: Charles Stuart Belcher, James Watt Lowe, Percival Molson, and Hugh Stowell Pedley.
     
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  19. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    While we're at it, I should probably also mention two of Bob Boucher's teammates with the 1912-13 Moose Jaw club of the Saskatchewan Senior Hockey League. Harry MacDonald and Bill Fishenden had these facts in common with Bob Boucher: all three set aside their hockey gear to become soldiers, all three volunteered to "do their duty", all three were killed in action in 1917 -- between January 17 and May 8.
     
  20. Sanf Registered User

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    Very impressive research!

    Saskatchewan Senior Hockey League had lot of good goalies who served in war at some point (though they weren´t all from Saskatchewan originally). McCusker. McCulloch, D`Arcy Smith, Fowler, Laird (though I do not think he ever went overseas)...

    Do you know about the fate of Billy Wright the Prince Albert "Mintos" goalie? I have seen mentioned that he would have been casualty of the war.
     
    Last edited by moderator Theokritos: Mar 23, 2021
  21. Staniowski Registered User

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    In addition to what's been said, a significant percentage of the voluntary soldiers were Canadians who were British-born. This was especially the case early in the War.

    Some of the British-born were "home children", and many were other immigrants from Britain.

    I dont know about the hockey players, whether any of them were British-born.
     
  22. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    By "Billy Wright", do you perhaps mean Bruce Emerson Wright, goaltender with the Prince Albert Mintos, 1912-1916. Born December 19, 1894, Wright died October 23, 1918 -- 19 days before the Armistice. Unfortunately, Library and Archives Canada's "Circumstances of Death Registers" is incomplete. Missing are the names following "Sims", so I am not able to discover what Wright's cause of death may have been. But I have a guess. Wright is buried at Englefield Green Cemetery, Surrey, England. A sergeant in the Canadian Forestry Corps, Wright is one of 32 Canadians buried in that cemetery. There were two military hospitals nearby. My guess -- just a guess, but not an outrageous one -- is that Wright may have been a victim of the so-called Spanish 'flu pandemic that was raging at that time.
     
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  23. A L MacLeod Registered User

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    Especially in the early days of the war many enlistees -- perhaps a majority -- were British-born, and yes, there would have been many "home children" among them. One more yes: some of the hockey players who died in the war were indeed men who had been born in Britain. One of them I've already mentioned in this thread: with Bob Boucher and Harry MacDonald, Bill Fishenden played for the Allan Cup with Moose Jaw in 1913 -- and lost to the Winnipeg Hockey Club. Fishenden was a native of Kilndown, Kent, England.
     
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  24. Sanf Registered User

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    Thank you! Yes I did mean Bruce Wright. That seems very plausible.
     
  25. Sanf Registered User

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    I don´t have any kind of numbers either. I have seen few articles on newspaper about player enlisting numbers from OHA. We probably have right man here to correct if these seems incorrect.

    One was from early 1916 where W. A. Hewitt (secretary of OHA) gave estimation of 500 active hockey players enlisted.

    Other I have is from 1917. It was Sol Metzger article published in several US papers. I have this clip from it.

    Hartford Courant 29 July 1917
    Sol Metzger

    ...One may gain some idea of the hold hockey has on the Canadian and of the number of players who are serving overseas by the followin data given me by the Ontario Hockey Association:--

    During the first year of the war, 850 of its 1500 actual players enlisted. During the second year of the war practically all of its juniors of the previous year, who meantime had passed their twentieth birthdays, also enlisted. This past winter, there were 100 teams in the association, 37 of them representing military organizations. Of the other 67 team from three to five each were either enlisted men or soldiers back from the front. most whom had sent back to recuperate from wounds....
     

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