Hobart A.H. Baker, arguably Princeton's greatest athletic hero and the man for whom Baker Rink, the Hobey Baker Trophy and the Hobey Baker Memorial Award are named, was born in Wissahickon, Pa., in 1892.
It was at Princeton that Baker distinguished himself as one of the greatest college hockey players of all time, dominating every game he played in and frustrating all who tried to contain him. His skating and stickhandling skills were unmatched.
In three years at Princeton, he led the team to a combined record of 27-7, including three Intercollegiate League championships. He once played every second of a 73-minute game against Harvard while his teammates and opponents were substituting freely.
Baker became equally well known for his sportsmanship and sense of fair play. After every game an often-exhausted Baker would visit the opposing team's locker room and thank the players for a good game. He was only penalized twice in his career, with both fouls reportedly undeserved, and when he was, there was no one more disappointed than Baker. The mere suggestion that he violated a rule of the game or a rule of sportsmanship nearly drove him to tears.
When he later played with the St. Nicholas Skating Club, a New York amateur team, the Madison Square Garden marquee would read, "Baker Plays Here Tonight," until Hobey himself ordered it stopped after four games. Legendary New York Rangers coach Lester Patrick once remarked that Baker was the only American at the time who could have been a professional hockey star in Canada.
The Hobey Baker Memorial Award is presented to the outstanding men's college hockey player in the United States by the Decathlon Athletic Club of Bloomington, Minn. The Hobey Baker Trophy is a Princeton team award that is given annually to that freshman hockey player who in play, sportsmanship and influence, has contributed most to the sport.
Also a standout in football, Baker spent three years on the varsity squad at Princeton from 1911-13, during which time the Tigers amassed a 20-3-4 record. The 1911 Princeton squad went undefeated and claimed the national championship.
A hero in life, so too was Baker a hero in death. A captain and commander of the 141st Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces, Baker shot down three German planes and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for exceptional valor under fire. He died in Toul, France, shortly after the end of World War I.
Typical of Baker, he was testing a newly repaired plane, one with orange and black markings no less, so that no one under his command would have to face the risk. The plane lost power and went down just a short distance from the hangar. In fact, Baker had been given demobilization orders an hour before testing the plane, and he was scheduled to leave Paris by train that night.
One of Baker's fellow officers said after his death, "As a man, Captain Baker was a striking example of the finest America can produce. He was a thorough gentleman and a true friend on whom one could always rely. He was entirely unselfish and was always thinking of others rather than of himself. In spite of all of the well-deserved praise heaped upon him for his success in athletics and in the service, he was totally unspoiled by it. He was modest almost to a fault."
For all his accomplishments, Hobey Baker has been elected a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame and the National Football Hall of Fame. Baker was the subject of a PBS documentary in the spring of 2004.