Peculiar Side of Sports: Who was Hobey Baker?

Welcome back to Peculiar Side of Sports. Every so often something in sports perplexes me. So, I do what any normal, sane sports fan does – I search ad nauseam for the answer by any means necessary. The good news is that I take all my hard work and relay the results to you. If you are a fan of Sports History, check out the other articles I have written – “Sports History” covering virtually all major sports.

Who was Hobey Baker?

The Hobey Baker Award will be doled out to one lucky — and incredibly athletically-gifted – young collegiate hockey (NCAA) player. The award’s official website, HobeyBaker.com, lists the following as its criterion for selecting its annual recipient:

    •     Exhibit strength and character, both on and off the ice
    •     Contribute to the integrity of the team
    •     Display outstanding skills in all phases of the game
    •     Show scholastic achievement and sportsmanship

Candidates must also comply with NCAA rules, be full-time students in an accredited NCAA college or university, and complete 50% or more of the season. A 27-member panel will narrow candidates to 10 with on-line balloting helping to pare the list to just three.

The award is indeed a prestigious honour, but I wonder, who was Hobey Baker?

Hobart Amory Hare Baker

Born Hobart Amory Hare Baker, Hobey excelled both in hockey and football. A natural athlete, he picked up hockey while attending school in New Hampshire before pursuing the game years later while attending Princeton University. While at Princeton, he also excelled on the gridiron and baseball diamond, but gave up the latter to focus on hockey and football.

Baker was so good in fact, that he won the award for the school’s best hockey player, football player and all-around best athlete. He was a huge part of three national championship winning teams, winning for football in 1911 and hockey in 1912 and 1914.

After his varsity playing career, he had a stint playing amateur hockey for St. Nicholas Club, and even garnered interest and a three-year offer from the Montreal Canadiens, which he was forced to turn down. Hobey Baker enlisted in the US Air Force during World War II, where he served as Captain for some of his time. Mere hours before he was set to return to the US from France, Baker died during a test flight.

Hobey Baker Princeton

The list of posthumous accolades is quite lengthy, and for good reason. His skill on the ice was so impressive that he was one of the first nine, and the only American, to be inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.  In fact, to this day he is the only member of both hockey and football halls of fame. The NHL awarded him the Lester Patrick trophy in 1987 for his contributions to the sport.

Often forgotten, there is another award that doesn’t get the level of attention — the Hobey Baker Legends of College Hockey Award. This award is given to a player or coach who has made significant contributions to the sport. While it doesn’t get the same press as the Hobey Baker award, it is significant nonetheless, and embodies Baker’s legacy which was much more than his on-ice contributions.

The fact that we celebrate with such an honourable award is proof enough that we have not forgotten the significance of Hobey Baker, which is a testament to his contributions made on and off the ice.