Skip to main content

Wright Brothers: Flying High Sticks

I was thumbing through the Fall 2010 issue of the Hockey Research Journal by the Society for International Hockey Research the other day. The very first story, written by Bill Sproule, absolutely floored me.

It was a fascinating biography the Wright brothers - you know, the fathers of flight. Most of us know very little about them other than their 12 second flight of fancy. I had even been to the site near Kitty Hawk in the beautiful Outer Banks region of North Carolina where the first flight occurred. But I really knew next to nothing about the both before and after they successfully invented the airplane.

What does any of this have to do with hockey? Well Sproule tells us hockey played an interesting role in Wilbur Wright's career path.

Long story short - Wilbur was quite the athlete, starring in football and track and field, but he also played some hockey. Sometime in the winter of 1885/86 he was struck in the face by a high stick while playing shinny on a frozen pond near Dayton, Ohio. Not only did Wilbur lose his front teeth, but the incident somehow saw Wilbur descend into years of health problems, including heart problems, digestive distress and severe depression and withdrawal from society.

How all of that is related to an errant high stick is hard fathom. But for four years or so he went from an athletic young man about to enter Yale to become an educator to an anti-social shut in.

During this time Wilbur took care of his ailing mother and also devoured countless books in the family's extensive library. One of his favorite topics was aviation. It was during this time off from his original plans that he became obsessed with flight.

The rest, as they say, is history. I don't think a hockey injury can really take too much claim to fame in the Wright brothers success, but it certainly is an interesting footnote.

The Hockey Research Journal is released to SIHR members. Membership is only $30 annually and well worth it for the Journal, the website and its database, and the amazing list of hockey contacts.

Non-members can get a better taste of SIHR and its writings in the 2010 book release Pucklore: The Hockey  Research Anthology: Volume 1 - Buy The Book: - Chapters


Popular posts from this blog

100 Greatest Hockey Players Of All Time

What follows is a listing of the 100 greatest hockey players of all time, in my opinion. As discussed earlier, the definition of greatness is a very personalized endeavor and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.
While there is no way of ever truly ranking the top 100 definitively, it is important for the creators of such lists to be open and transparent of how the came to their conclusions. That accountability allows the reader to better understand the process. 

Although admittedly I'm using a completely unscientific formula, I weigh career achievements (era statistics, awards, championships) and legacy (impact on and off ice, peak dominance) equally high. I rank player ability as the third most important ingredient, as first and foremost as a tie breaker. Hence, I'm not necessarily looking for the better player, as in text book definitions of what a hockey player should be, but for players with the greatest careers and greatest legacies. Therefore the best player is not n…

Top Ten Junior Players Of All Time

Let's take a look at the Top Ten junior players of all time. For the purposes of this list we will at players in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL only.

10. Pat Lafontaine, Verdun, QMJHL Rookie-record 104 goals, 234 points in 1982-83; major junior player of the year.

9. Denis Potvin, Ottawa, OHL 254 games, 95 goals, 234 assists, 329 points. Broke Bobby Orr's junior records.

8. John Tavares, Oshawa, OHL 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games; most goals in OHL history; eligibility rules changed to admit him at 15; 2006 major junior rookie of the year, 2007 major junior player of the year; two world juniors, named 2009 all-star, top forward and MVP.

7. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski, QMJHL 120 goals, 303 points in 121 games; two-time major junior player of the year; silver and gold with Canada at two world juniors.

6. Eric Lindros, Oshawa, OHL 97 goals, 216 points in 95 games; one Memorial Cup victory; three world junior tournaments; major junior player of the year in 1991.

5. Mike Bossy, Laval, Q…

Greatest Hockey Legends: M