Canadiens forward Amos Arbour (front row, left) served in the Canadian Military during the First World War. Fellow Habs George Prodger (top row, first on right) and Howard McNamara (4th from right) also served.
As we remember those who have served our country, those fallen and still with us, I thought I would look at one of the earliest members of the Montreal Canadiens to have served our nation.
Amos “Butch” Arbour was born on January 26, 1895 in the small town of Waubaushene, Ontario. Those from Ontario who are headed to cottage country along Highway 400, may recognize the town name, as it sits just off the off ramp to Highway 12.
Arbour worked as a butcher in his younger years and worked on his hockey skills in the neighbouring town of Victoria Harbour, playing on the Harbour Station club of the OHA Jr. league. Word of the 5’9” left winger made it’s way to the Montreal Canadiens, who brought him aboard for the 1915-16 season.
In his first year in Montreal, Arbour played alongside Goldie Prodger and Louis Berlinquette, scoring five goals in 20 games. He would win a Stanley Cup, the first for the Canadiens, that season, scoring three times in four playoff games.
With the First World War well under way, several NHA players signed up for military service. Arbour enlisted on July 3, 1916. Private Arbour (his serial numer - 853665) , Prodger, fellow Canadiens teammate Howard McNamara and other NHA players would find themselves still able to play in the league as part of the Toronto 228th Battalion club, more commonly know as the Northern Fusiliers. McNamara would be a player-coach.
Sporting khaki coloured uniforms on the ice, the Fusiliers were one of the most popular clubs hat season ,scoring a league high 70 goals through the first 10 games. Arbour score 13 goals for the 228th, assisting on two others.
By mid-season however, the call to go overseas was made to the 228th and the club withdrew from the league. The NHA, told that the team would be available all season, reportedly attempted to sue the Canadian military for $3000, but were unsuccessful. There was also a report that two players (Eddie Oatman and Gord Meeking) were discharged from service over a dispute that they were promised bonuses and commissions from the 228th to play hockey.
Upon arrival in England in February of 1917, the battalion was redesignated as the 6th Battalion Canadian Railway Troops. They landed in France between April and May of 1917, providing railway support on the British Western Front, as well as numerous battle honours, until the end of the war.
With The Great War coming to an end, Arbour would make his way home to Canadian soil. He signed back with the Canadiens (now of the NHL) and managed to get one game in during the 1919-20 season.
It didn’t take long to Arbour’s hockey skills to return as he would score 21 goals in 23 games the following season, and 15 in the next. He would be traded with Harry Mummery to the Hamilton Tigers for Sprague Cleghorn in November of 1921.
Arbour is just one of many hockey players to serve in the military.. The Society for International Hockey Research has an extensive list of those recorded in hockey history who have served and the ones who gave the supreme sacrifice. Let us not forget any of them, whether they put on the skates or not. Lest We Forget.