On this day in 1918, the 26-year-old collegiate and amateur ice hockey star Hobey Baker is killed in a plane crash in Toul, France, just after the end of World War I.
After beginning his hockey career at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, Baker played four seasons of hockey at Princeton University in New Jersey, leading his team to two intercollegiate championships in 1912 and 1914. A “rover” on the Princeton team, Baker was known for his ability to cover the rink from end to end and score from various positions. He was also captain of the football team, which won a national championship in 1911. After graduating from Princeton, Baker worked for the J.P. Morgan investment bank and played amateur hockey for the Saint Nicholas Club of New York City.
Upon America’s entry into World War I in 1917, Baker enlisted in the U.S. Army as a pilot. He flew in the famous Lafayette Escadrille, an elite squadron of the French Air Force, and participated in air battles against such German aces as Manfred von Richthofen, or the “Red Baron.” During his service for the Allies, Baker painted his plane in orange and black, the colors of his beloved Princeton Tigers, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his superior conduct under fire. Tragically, he died in a flying accident barely a month after the armistice, while test-flying one of his squadron’s planes.
In 1945, Baker became one of the inaugural inductees into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The Hobey Baker Memorial Award is presented annually to the best college hockey player in the country; it is the equivalent of college football’s famed Heisman Trophy.