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I was recently in Seattle and used some of the time on our trip there to visit the Seattle Central Library. I wanted to look into something that had bothered me for a while.
For a couple of years, I've had my doubts about Jack Walker playing one game for Seattle in the PCHA in 1917/18. I started to wonder about it when I came across newspaper clippings saying he'd been granted an exemption from the Canadian military after the government introduced Conscription earlier in 1917 ... but with a condition of his exemption stating that he remain home and work at his job, which must have been considered an essential service. (He was an employee on a railroad out of his hometown in Port Arthur, Ontario).
I asked SHIR member Ernie Fitzsimmons a while back if his records showed in what game Walker was supposed to have played. He told me it was a game in Seattle against Vancouver on January 30, 1918. It struck me as particularly odd that Walker would risk his exemption to travel the three or so days it would take to go practically across the continent to play in one single game nearly one full month after the season got under way. Walker DOES show up in the lineup as the rover in some Canadian newspapers the following day, so I asked a colleague in Seattle what the records show in the Seattle papers. He said Walker did NOT appear in the Seattle Times lineup for the game, but he hadn't done enough research to say for certain that Walker didn't actually play. I think that I now have.
The Seattle Times only lists the seven starters for both teams [Seattle: G-Fowler; D-Rickey; D-Rowe; R-Foyston; C-Morris; RW-Wilson; LW-Roberts] but the summary lists all the player changes during the game. Walker NEVER substitutes in. More importantly, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer lists the full lineup of seven starters and two substitutes [Patrick and Riley], and still Walker does not appear. His name is not mentioned in the game stories in either newspaper, nor does it appear in any stories in the Post-Intelligencer in the days leading up to the game.
In the Canadian papers that list Walker, it appears they have listed him as the starter at rover and omitted Frank Foyston, who both Seattle papers list as the starter for the January 30 game. The Calgary Herald is one of the Canadian papers listing Walker instead of Foyston. No non-starters are shown in the lineup but the Herald does list all the substitutions just as they are listed in the Seattle Times. Walker's name never appears, but Foyston's is all over the summary with a goal, an assist, and several substitutions. (Interestingly, the Seattle papers report that this game was designated Frank Foyston Night in Seattle as he was playing his first home game for the Metropolitans this season after having just recently secured his own temporary military exemption! Foyston would be called up in April of 1918.)
While the game summaries in and of themselves might not be conclusive evidence that Walker didn't play that night, there are stories dating back to as early as September 30 in the Seattle Times noting which members of the team were seeking military exemptions in Canada. Walker (and fellow Port Arthur resident and railway worker Eddie Carpenter) is always among the names mentioned when these stories increased throughout November. Craig Bowlsby, in his detailed history of the PCHA Empire of Ice, cites the Regina Morning Leader on November 29, 1917, as proof that Walker and Carpenter finally received exemptions (though, in fact, newspapers in Seattle and Spokane reported the news the previous day). He then writes that they "dropped out" just before Seattle's first game. The choice to drop out likely wasn't theirs.
On December 7, 1917, the Toronto Star says: "Eddie Carpenter and Jack Walker ... are still at their homes in Port Arthur." The next day, the Star reports: "It was learned that the condition that Jack Walker and Eddie Carpenter received their exemptions at Port Arthur was that they remained on their jobs there. This explains the report that they would not go to the coast this winter." On December 22, 1917, the Manitoba Free Press in Winnipeg states: "Eddie Carpenter and Jack Walker, who are locomotive engineers, were granted exemption provided they remained at their posts in the east." In a column called 'Sports Queries and Answers' in the Seattle Times on February 15, 1918, a writer asks the sports editor of the Times: "What has become of Eddie Carpenter and Jack Walker, the two Seattle players who helped win the world's championship last season." The answer given is: "Both Walker and Carpenter remained in Canada this season, and so far as known, neither is playing hockey. Walker is railroading. Carpenter is an engineer on a railroad also."
Historic records have always shown Carpenter as missing this season, and – as I said previously – it struck me as very unlikely that Walker would travel so far and risk his exemption by playing in a single game midway through the PCHA schedule. Still even Bowlsby (who, admittedly, had much bigger things to research for his book than the fate of one single player in one single game!) includes Walker and his one game in his listing of the season's statistics for 1917/18. So, I looked through the entire 1917/18 season in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on microfilm ... and could not find Walker listed in the lineup for ANY game the Metropolitans played that year. As a result, I am pretty close to 100 percent confident that Walker did NOT play for the Mets this season. As a further piece of evidence, on December 8, 1918, the Seattle Times, in writing about the upcoming 1918/19 season, reports that: "The Seattle fans will welcome Jack Walker back into the game."
Previous to my research, the statistics on the SIHR web site still showed Walker with his one game played for Seattle, but they also show him with eight games played and 22 goals for the Port Arthur Lake City team in the Northern Ontario Senior Hockey Association. It seems MUCH more plausible to me that Walker would have played a handful of amateur games at home this season than that he would have played even one game in Seattle. Currently, that one game in Seattle has been dropped from the SIHR record, and only the amateur stats remain. This same change will more than likely be made in the database maintained by Dan Diamond and Associates, publishers of the NHL Official Guide & Record Book and the two editions of Total Hockey. This information was also sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame ... but changes to the historic hockey record are made slowly, if at all, in that otherwise fine institution.
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