Listen to this episode on my podcast Canadian History Ehx
With Remembrance Day only a few days away, I thought that my focus for Small Town Hockey Heroes should be on a hockey player who fought for his country during the First World War.
Edward Lyman Abbott was born in Lovering, Ontario on May 1, 1891. Six years later, he would move with his parents, James and Mary, to Saskatchewan. It was there he began to play hockey in high school and began to develop into a fast-skating right-winger who could score with ease.
By 1911, he was playing for the Regina Shamrocks and the Regina Bees, where he would win the Valkenburg Cup, awarded to the Saskatchewan Senior Hockey League champion, in 1911 and 1912. In 1914, he would captain the Regina Victorias to the 1914 Allan Cup. That hockey club would win 12 games during the season, losing only four. At the time, winning the Allan Cup was the equivalent of winning the Stanley Cup.
It wasn’t just hockey that he excelled at. He would play for the Regina Rugby Club, the precursor to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, from 1913 to 1915 and would help them win the Canadian Football League West Division each of those years.
It was generally considered that Abbott was the best athlete not only in Regina, but across Western Canada. Even to this day, many still feel that Abbott was the best athlete that Regina ever saw.
In addition to excelling at hockey and rugby, he also did extremely well in baseball, soccer and lacrosse.
At the same time he was excelling in sports, he was also a law student and a senior civil servant for the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan.
With his fair complex and gray eyes, he was someone who was easily recognizable across the city.
Abbot would choose to enlist to fight overseas on Sept. 23, 1915 in Regina. He would complete his officer training in Winnipeg and earn the rank of lieutenant and assigned to the 68th Battalion. He would leave on the RMS Olympic from Halifax on April 28, 1916. By October, he had earned the rank of captain and was serving with the 52nd battalion.
Throughout his war years, he would suffer several injuries. He was first injured on Oct. 7, 1916 at the Battle of the Somme when a bullet hit him in the shoulder. Within a few days he was back in England to recover. On Oct. 24, the shrapnel was removed and he was discharged on Nov. 13. He didn’t waste much time and was back on the front.
On July 26, 1917, he was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and a Medal Bar three months later when he conducted a raid on enemy trenches even though he was outnumbered. Due to his ability to take hard knocks without noticing them, he would earn the name of “hickory”. By this time, he was wearing special plate glass glasses because of a shrapnel injury to his eye in September. When he was in the hospital for the injury, doctors removed it from above his eye with nothing more than a magnet. He would once again return to France to fight, this time the day before Christmas.
He would be killed in battle on Aug. 14, 1918 from a sniper’s bullet to his head. According to the reports, he was the first man out of the trench to begin the rush towards the Germans.
His death would be reported in the Leader-Post, stating:
“The death of the young popular Regina officer came as a great shock to many friends in the city and to the hundreds who knew him through the province particularly as one of the finest athletes who ever appeared before the public in the province.”
It continued, “The world of sport of Regina, and for that matter the entire province of Saskatchewan, is the poorer today by the loss of Hick. As long as Regina is, the name of Abbott will live. To the present generation, his name stands supreme as a monument to the best that was in sport. The the future generation he has left an ideal for them to attain.”
Following his death, the Abbott Cup would be created and is awarded to the Western Canada junior hockey championship each year. In addition, the Abbott Cup and his war medals were on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame. In 2014, Abbott was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.
While he never reached the NHL, it is likely he would have without the First World War getting in the way. While no NHL experience came his way, he still left his mark on hockey in Canada.
Following his death, Abbott was hailed as one of the greatest hockey players that this Dominion ever saw.
While Edward would not survive the war, his cousin George would despite being seriously wounded. George’s grandson would eventually inherit the medals that Edward was awarded that made their way to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Information for this episode comes from Wikipedia, the Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame.