Hobey Baker was the perfect amateur player. He was America's first hockey superstar, admired everywhere he played, and famous for his courteous behaviour both on and off the ice.
Hobart Amory Hare Baker was born in Pennsylvania in 1892. While at St. Paul's school in New Hampshire, he was introduced to hockey, and gained a reputation as an excellent player and gentleman. Hobey was quite athletic, and when he enrolled at Princeton in 1910, he played baseball, hockey, and football. Since school rules prohibited a player from participating in more than two varsity sports, Hobey gave up baseball.
As a rover, Hobey was able to explore his versatility on ice. He led the Princeton Tigers to an undefeated season in 1910-11, and put on such a show that the team was sometimes known as “Hobey Baker and 6 other players.” By the time he graduated, he was part of three national championship teams, one football and two hockey. He was also known for refusing to wear a football helmet and earning only one penalty in his entire collegiate hockey career. He was also such an outstanding student and athlete that F. Scott Fitzgerald based not one, but two characters (Amory Blaine and Allenby) on him in This Side of Paradise.
After graduating from Princeton with a strong academic record, Hobey continued playing amateur hockey while working for J.P. Morgan Bank in New York. He was a member of the Manhattan Saint Nicholas Club, one of the best amateur hockey clubs in the country. In his first season, he played eight games, scoring 17 goals, and the arena marquee would often boast “Hobey Baker Plays Here Tonight.”
When the Saint Nicholas Club played the Montreal Stars for the Ross Cup on December 11, 1915, Baker scored two goals and set up three more. Saint Nicholas claimed the Ross Cup by a score of 6-3. He was so compelling and such a good sportsman that the Montreal media said, “Baker cooked our goose so artistically we enjoyed it.” While playing for Saint Nicholas, Hobey was offered $3,500 to play professional hockey in Canada, but he always turned these offers down, saying he only wanted to play for the love of the game.
When the U.S. entered World War I, Hobey enlisted in the Army and became a pilot. In 1918 he was a member of the 103rd Aero Squadron. He had three confirmed kills and was awarded the Cross de Guerre by the French government. He survived the war, only to die in a crash while testing one of his squadron's repaired planes. Ironically, his orders for home were found in his pocket. He was only 26.
The Hobey Baker Memorial Award is given each year to the most outstanding collegiate hockey player; additionally the Princeton arena is named in his honour. He is a member of both the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame. He is also a member of Princeton's Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.