Remembrance Day - History of Hockey and Those Lost to War

November 11, 2022 || Written by Katie Lakusta

On November 11, Canada joins many other countries among the Commonwealth and others to celebrate our veterans and reflect on the many soldiers and people lost in conflict. For Remembrance Day, The Hockey Shop will also be taking the time to remember our fallen soldiers and the end of the Great Wars.

Preview Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Photo by Farrinni on Unsplash

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day found its origins in Armistice Day, which paid tribute to the armistice agreement and the end of the First World War. Much of the tradition has been upheld to this day, despite the name change, including the date and time: November 11, 11am. Although mainly commemorated by the Commonwealth, other countries outside of the Commonwealth also observe the holiday. In most of Canada, it is a statutory holiday. For a further display of respect and to acknowledge the holiday, people wear a poppy on the left side of their chest near their heart.

228th Battalion "Northern Fusiliers" hockey team, Alan MacLeod/flickr cc,

World War I

Being successful in hockey requires a good amount of physical fitness, which is a major reason why many hockey players would also be fit to enlist for service during World War I. Military teams were common and a good way to boost morale and comradery, with battalions facing off and even the navy playing against the army. On another note, women’s hockey also gained some popularity, as many male players ended up heading off to war and the venues were looking to fill some time slots with hockey.

Although we don’t have the exact total of Canadian hockey players that enlisted, we can say that over 30 documented to have died in the war had notable links to hockey. The Memorial Cup today is a symbol that honours those lost in WWI.

World War II

World War II occurred during the time of the NHL, and it saw many NHL players signing up to serve in the war. One of the most high-profile enlistments was the Kraut Line from the Boston Bruins, which included Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart, and Bobby Bauer. Considered Boston’s and one of the league’s best lines, all three in the Kraut line joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at the same time in 1942. All will also survive through the war, and will even help the Bruins become a contender in the 1946 Stanley Cup Championship.

Boston wasn’t the only team to be missing players during the war. Canadiens players Joe Benoit, Smiley Meronek, and Alex Smart all joined the war effort; players like Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Elmer Lach, and Toe Blake all attempted to enlist but were turned away due to injury. Conn Smythe, co-owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs and a vet from WWI, will also enlist.

Of the hundreds of Canadian hockey players that enlisted in the War, more than 50 did not survive.

Fallen Soldiers: Lost but Never Forgotten

Remembrance Day is a day for taking a moment to put your thoughts toward the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for their friends, family, and country. The following are some brief stories of a couple hockey players lost in World War I. Please also take a moment to view the list of Fallen Canadians with ties to hockey provided by the Government of Canada and Veteran Affairs Canada, as well as remember the many other soldiers lost to war.

By Unknown author - Hockey Hall of Fame, Public Domain,

Allan McLean "Scotty" Davidson (March 6, 1891 - June 16, 1915)

Army; Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment); “E” Company 2nd Battalion

Buried: Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Scotty Davidson was known as an amazing goal scorer and leader when he played for the Toronto Blueshirts (now the Maple Leafs). As captain of the team, he scored 46 goals in 44 games over two seasons and was known as a star player within the league. He also helped Toronto win their first Stanley Cup in 1914. 

When it came time for the Great War, he volunteered to join the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF) as a bomb thrower. 

Even on the battlefield, he was incredibly selfless and known to risk his life on multiple occasions for his comrades, including one instance where he took multiple shots to the shoulder while trying to help a fellow soldier to safety. 

He was killed on June 16, 1915 from an explosive shell that had fallen into a trench he was in. Had he survived, it’s speculated that he would have been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Victoria Cross.

Unknown Author. “Richardson, George Taylor (1886-1916)”. n.d.,

Captain George Taylor Richardson (September 14, 1886 - February 9, 1916)

Army; Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment); 2nd Battalion

Buried: Bailleul Communal Cemetary Extension, Nord, France

Those who have gone to or have ties to Queen’s University have likely heard of or been told the stories of George Taylor Richardson. 

George graduated with a BSc in 1906 from Queen’s Universityand was considered a star player for both their football and hockey teams, the Golden Gaels. Not only was he a great player, but he was a very clean player and an incredible leader. Beyond the standard responsibilities he had as a Captain at war, he also paid for certain necessities for his troops out of pocket and never ordered anyone to do something he wouldn’t do himself. He was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French government, as well as the Order of Manitoba.

Sadly, he would not make it through the war. He was shot three times and died on February 9, 1916, after succumbing to his injuries. Richardson Stadium at Queen’s University was named in his honour (originally George Taylor Richardson Memorial Stadium).

By Canadian Army - Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame, Public Domain,

Lieutenant Frank McGee (November 4, 1882 – September 16, 1916)

Army; Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment); 21st Battalion

Buried: Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Frank McGee played on many teams across Ottawa—the Ottawa Aberdeens, the Ottawa CPR team, and the Ottawa Hockey Club to name a few. And in every instance and every league he was in, he was one of the top goal scorers and best players on the ice. He went nearly blind in one eye during his time with the CPR team, which had him partially retiring to become a referee, but he returned to make up another stellar season with the Ottawa Hockey Club.

He and his brother were already part of the Non-Permanent Active Militia of Canada, so when war broke out in August of 1914, they mobilized to Europe. Despite being blind in one eye, he had managed to trick the doctor during the test, allowing him to pass the physical and head to war. One notable battle he took part in was the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Tragically, he did not survive the war; he was killed by an artillery shell that landed near him on November 16, 1916. His brother was killed a year earlier.

When the Hockey Hall of Fame was established in 1945, Frank McGee was one of the first inductees.

Captain Edward Lyman Abbott (May 1, 1891 - August 14, 1918)

Army; Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment), 52nd Battalion

Buried: Roye New British Cemetary, Somme, France

Edward Lyman Abbott played for various teams in the Regina, Saskatchewan area, including the Shamrocks, Bees, and Victorias, the latter of which he captained to a 1914 Allan Cup title. He was known as a speedy and goal-scoring right winger.

At war, he suffered many injuries, including shrapnel to the eye and gunshot wounds in his shoulder. None of these injuries would stop him from serving, however. Sadly, on August 14, 1918, he was shot in the head by a sniper, killing him instantly.

The Abbott Memorial Cup was named in his honour and awarded to the Junior A team that won the Western Canada championship between 1919 and 1999. With the realignment of regions in the Western league, the Abbott Memorial Cup now sits in the WWI display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.

He was inducted to the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.

Sources / Further Reading

L, Robert. “Examining a Wartime Habs Myth on Remembrance Day.” SBNation, 11 November, 2009. Source link

“Memorial Cup.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation, 7 July 2022. Source link

“Remembrance Day.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation, 8 November 2022. Source link

Veterans Affairs Canada and Government of Canada. “History of hockey and the Canadian military.” Government of Canada, Source link

Veterans Affairs Canada and Government of Canada. “10 Quick Facts on… Remembrance Day.” Government of Canada. Source link

Allan McLean "Scotty" Davidson

Bond, Ellen. “Hockey and the First World War.” Library and Archives Canada Blog, 15 March 2019. Source link

“Scotty Davidson.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation, 18 February 2022. Source link

George Taylor Richardson

Editors at Queen’s University. “Richardson, George Taylor (1886-1916).” Queen’s Encyclopedia. Source link

“George Richardson (ice hockey).” Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation, 27 July 2022. Source link

Veterans Affairs Canada and Government of Canada. “Richardson Stadium.” Government of Canada, Source link

Frank McGee

“Frank McGee (ice hockey).” Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation, 28 October 2022. Source link

Edward Lyman Abbott

“Edward Lyman Abbott.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation, 23 September 2022. Source link

Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. "Captain Edward Lyman 'Hick' Abbott, MC/Bar." Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, 2014. Source link

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