September 08, 2015

The Confusing Case of Paul Jacobs

Paul Oronhyatekha Jacobs likely wins the award for most interesting middle name, at least among North American born players. It is a Mohawk native word meaning "Burning Sky."

He may also win the award for most confusing NHL career.And possibly very historic. If he ever played in the NHL at all.

Jacobs was born in Montreal on March 9th, 1894, but it seems he grew up on Kahnawake (Caughnawaga) Territory. Though it has never been substantiated, it appears Jacobs may likely have been of native descent, which would have made him the first Canadian aboriginal player in National Hockey League history. If so, he would have played 35 seasons before Fred Saskamoose, who is recognized as the first in 1954.

But this is where it gets even more confusing. Jacobs may never have played in the NHL at all. Or he may have played as many as five games.

The NHL has officially recognized him with one game played. He donned the jersey of the Toronto Arenas sometime in the 1918-19 season. Newspaper archive searches suggest the game was the season opener on December 23rd, though there are other hints that he may have played on December 31st, instead or as well

Contradictory report suggests Jacobs would not be available for the entire season as he was moving back to Montreal. On top of that he never appears in lineup summaries in the newspapers.

Move back to Montreal he did, as the statistical record says he spent most of the season playing with the Montreal Stars. Yet Society for International Hockey Research digging at NHL offices finds Jacob's name on five game reports for games played on December 31, January 7, January 14, January 21 and February 4.

Now it seems unlikely Jacobs played in both Montreal and Toronto at the same time. But clearly mystery follows Jacobs' hockey career. Adding to the mystery was that Jacobs did not finish the season in Montreal.

Interestingly, it may have been a different sport that got him his shot at the NHL. Jacobs may have been a better lacrosse player than a hockey player. Charlie Querrie was the Ontario Lacrosse Association president as well as the manager of Toronto's NHL team.

After Jacobs confusing 1918-19 season he resurfaces in Montreal, Quebec City and Cleveland through 1925.

He was found to have passed away in Michigan on May 1st, 1973.

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