Babe Siebert: For the love of family and hockey
It was the end of a love story between Babe and his wife Bernice, witnessed and beloved by thousands of fans.
Albert "Babe" Siebert, member of the famed S Line (Montreal Maroons), drown in Lake Huron while attempting to retrieve an inflated rubber tube for his daughters.
On the ice, Babe was a relentless opponent, one who gave no quarter and asked for none. Described as having the face of an angel and ferocious fists, he was skilled as well. A three-time All-Star, Hart Trophy winner, and Stanley Cup champion, he could play both left wing and defence.
Off-ice, Babe was just the opposite. A loving, soft-spoken man, he was fiercely devoted to his family: wife Bernice and daughters June and Joan. Bernice was paralyzed during the birth of Joan, but the Babe never wavered in his devotion: "Those things were never in the headlines, but the Babe cared for an invalid wife with a surpassing tenderness and affection – and he was fully acquainted with the ins and outs of housework as he reared their two children, Judy and Joan now 11 and 10, with an attention few fathers, no matter how loving, have time to give their youngsters."
He devoted everything he had to help his wife. All of his salary and savings were spent on Bernice's health care and raising their girls. Bernice was an ardent hockey fan, and he made sure she attended every game she could.
When they arrived at the Forum, he would carry Bernice to her rink side seat with great tenderness, with no hesitation in displaying emotion in front of arriving fans. After giving his wife a kiss, Babe strode off to dress for the game.
"Perhaps the game would make him seem like a crude and uncouth person, rough and brutal. From the dressing room, the Babe would stride along the promenade until he reached the chair where his fragile bit of an invalid wife sat. Bending down, he would kiss her, then he would gather her up into his great muscular arms, stride out of the rink, and deposit her carefully in a waiting car that would take her home to the kiddies that he adored so much." (Montreal sportswriter Elmer Ferguson)
His public devotion to his wife earned him the adoration of fans, who already loved him for his play. When Babe died, the entire hockey world mourned with his family. Even NHL president Clarence Campbell was shaken and too upset to say more than "It seems almost too unreal to believe. His death will be a tremendous shock to sportsmen. I can't believe it."
After Babe's well-attended funeral, the NHL organised an All-Star game to raise funds for his widow and daughters. Only 6,000 fans attended, but it was enough to raise $15,000 ($239,407.89 CDN today) for his family.
Slated to be the Habs coach for the 1939-40 season, he holds the unfortunate distinction of being the only coach in Habs history with no wins, no losses, and no ties.
Babe Siebert was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1964. Unfortunately, I've been unable to find information on how his family fared after his passing.
A tragic end to a true hockey love story.