Hockey's Connection to Soccer

Hockey Connection

Down through the years, the ties between hockey and soccer have been many, obviously because the two sports complement each other.  Many players played soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter, and this is the case today.  The nine players listed below (including four from a more recent era), are just a small number of those who have had significant and distinguished careers in both sports.  During the days of the former Soviet Union, Igor Chislenko played both sports for his country, and today, many players from Sweden and Finland playing in the NHL play both sports. 

Dr. John “Jack” Gibson – Pioneer

Jack Gibson was born and grew up in Berlin (today’s Kitchener), and played both soccer and hockey in his youth.  He played soccer for the famous Berlin Rangers and was the centre half on the team that won the Western Football Association championship in 1897, 1898, 1899 and 1900.  His brothers Tom and Alex before him had played for the same team and had toured Britain with the Canadian team in 1888.  It is said of Doc Gibson that he was such a good soccer player that he was offered a trial with Everton.  But instead of going to England, he chose to remain in North America. He played football at the University of Michigan, and then attended the University of Detroit Dental School.  On graduation, he set up a practice in the northern Michigan town of Houghton on Lake Superior, where he established the Portage Lake team in 1902–03.  His interest in hockey led to his establishing the first professional hockey league in the world, with play starting in season 1904–05.  He eventually moved back to Canada and set up a practice in Calgary, living there until he died on November 4, 1954.  Doc Gibson was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976. 

Frank Calder – NHL President

Born in Bristol, England, on November 17, 1877, Frank Calder is best known as the first President of the National Hockey League, but long before that time, he was deeply involved in soccer.  In 1906, when the famous English amateur team known as the Corinthians toured Canada, Frank Calder refereed the game between the Montreal All-Stars and the touring team.  Much later, he represented the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association at the founding meeting of the Province of Quebec Football Association in 1911.  On arriving in Canada, he taught at a Montreal private school. He later turned to newspaper work, becoming sports editor of the Montreal Daily Witness, followed by sports editor, and then financial editor of the Montreal Herald.  Frank Calder played soccer, cricket and rugby football as a young man, and later in life, golf, but he never played hockey.  Frank Calder was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the Calder Cup was named in his honour.  He died in Montreal on February 4, 1943.

Alexander “Sandy” Archer – Gold Medal Winner

Born in West Ham, London, England, on May 1, 1910, Sandy Archer was a soccer player who won an Olympic gold medal in ice hockey.  He was brought to Winnipeg by his parents at the age of three, and grew up playing soccer and hockey.  He began his soccer career in the early 1920s, and played for Winnipeg Scottish.  In 1929, he played for the Manitoba All-Stars against the touring Welsh F.A. team, and in 1935, for Manitoba against the Scottish F.A. touring team.  Later that same year, he returned to England to play hockey for the Wembley Lions of the British National Hockey League.  He remained with the Lions for five seasons, picking up 82 goals and 77 assists.  His selection for the team to represent Britain at the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen was highly controversial.  At first, Archer and goaltender Jimmy Foster were not permitted by the International Ice Hockey Association to play for Britain, with Canada leading those protests.  But eventually they were allowed to play, and they helped Britain defeat Canada 2–1.   Both Archer and Foster played seven games in the 1936 Olympics, and won gold medals.  Two more gold medals for Archer followed in the 1937 and 1938 European Championships, and in all, he scored 14 goals and 10 assists in his 24 games for the British national team.  A fractured skull at Wembley in 1945, while playing for Britain against Sweden, ended his playing career.  On retiring, he turned to coaching, and coached Wembley Lions, Nottingham Panthers and Murrayfield in Scotland.  He was a British League All-Star “A” team member for three consecutive seasons, and was elected to the British Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.  He died in Britain in 1982.

Hubert George “Bill” Quackenbush – Hall of Famer

The offensive defenceman of his era, Quackenbush played for the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings and won the Lady Byng in 1949.  He was born in Toronto, March 2, 1922, and died in Newtown, Pennsylvania, September 12, 1999.  On the soccer field, he played for Toronto Scottish during the war years.

Jimmy Graham – World Champion

When Canada won the World Hockey Championship in 1950, the Canadian team was coached by an Irish-born soccer player.  Yes, that’s right, an Irish-born soccer player coached Canada to a World Hockey Championship.  His name was Jimmy Graham, and he was born in Portrush, Northern Ireland, in 1905.  Graham was brought to Canada by his parents when he was 11 years old, and he grew up on the south side of the Alberta capital.  He played soccer in the summer and hockey in the winter and was outstanding in both sports.  Graham first attracted attention as a soccer player when he played for the Edmonton All-Stars against the touring English amateur team, the Corinthians, in 1924, playing outside left on a forward line that included his brother George, at centre forward, and Dave Turner at inside left.  That’s the same Dave Turner who has been inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and The Soccer Hall of Fame.  Later, George Graham played for Canada against the United States in 1925, and went on to star with the great Toronto Ulster United teams of the 1920s and 1930s.  Younger brother Bobby Graham was also a great hockey and soccer player, and played for the Alberta All-Stars against the touring Scottish F.A. team in 1939.

Turner and the Graham brothers were close friends while growing up, but when George and Dave moved away in 1925 to play on the west coast, Jimmy stayed home in Edmonton.  As the years went by, he played soccer for Edmonton All-Stars against the touring English F.A. in 1926, the Welsh F.A. in 1929, England again in 1931, and in 1935, for the Alberta All-Stars against the Scottish F.A.  He played his club soccer for a variety of Edmonton teams, including being a member of the famous Edmonton C.N.R. team that reached the Western Final of the Challenge Cup in 1929, before losing to Winnipeg United Weston in three games.

But it was as a hockey player and coach that he really made his name. He first came to prominence in 1926 with the Edmonton Gainers Superiors team, and with Jimmy as an outstanding centre, the Superiors won the Alberta Senior Championship twice.  In 1931, he was a member of the Superiors team that reached the Western Final of the Allan Cup and lost to Winnipeg.  Following the team’s win in Trail, B.C., in qualifying for the final, the Edmonton Journal reported that “Edmonton owes its success to the magnificent play of captain Jimmy Graham.”  During the winter of 1932–33, the Superiors toured Europe and won the Paris International Tournament along the way.  When he retired from playing, he turned to coaching, leading the Edmonton Independent All-Stars to the Western Canada Intermediate “A” Championship in 1946, and then the Edmonton Waterloo Mercurys, named after an Edmonton Ford dealership, to the same championship in the spring of 1949.

In July of 1949, the Mercurys were chosen to represent Canada at the World Hockey Championships in London, England, and the following year, with Jimmy Graham behind the bench, the Mercurys brought the World Championship back to Canada after Czechoslovakia had captured the title the year before.  Under Jimmy Graham, Canada beat Switzerland 13–2 and Belgium 33–0 in the preliminary round.  When the final round started, the Mercurys beat Switzerland for the second time 11–1, the United States 5–0, Norway 11–0, Great Britain 12–0 and in the final, Sweden 3–1.  The Winnipeg Free Press of March 23, 1950, reports that “Each player received an individual medal with a two inch stamped figure of a hockey player on it.  When coach Jimmy Graham was called to the ice to receive his medal the Canadian players knelt and slapped the ice with their sticks almost loud enough to drown out the cheers of the crowd.”  When the team arrived back in Edmonton to a hero’s welcome, the front page of the Edmonton Journal read “60,000 Welcome Champions Mercurys.” 

Two years later, the same team, after Jimmy Graham had retired, and coached by Lou Holmes, won an Olympic Gold Medal in Oslo, Norway.  That team has been inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, but incredibly Jimmy Graham’s Mercurys, World Champions in 1950, have not.  Jimmy Graham died in Edmonton October 27, 1962.

Lorne “Gump” Worsley – All-Star

It seems to have been a well-kept secret down the years that the Gump played soccer as well as hockey.  It was not mentioned in his bio at the Hockey Hall of Fame, and many of the sports writers who wrote about him never knew until it was pointed out to them on his death.  His hockey career is well known, but what was not known was that during his time in Saskatoon, where he played in goal for the Quakers, he also played soccer for Saskatoon Legion during the summer.  During this time, he was selected to play for the Saskatoon All-Stars against the touring Tottenham Hotspurs from England, not in goal, but at centre forward.  The Spurs overwhelmed Saskatoon, winning 18–1.  The following year, 1953, he was in Montreal, where he played centre half for Montreal Hakoah.  The team, with Worsley as its captain, reached the national Challenge Cup final, but lost in three games to Westminster Royals.  Worsley, however, scored from a penalty kick in the final game.  His hockey career in the NHL took him to New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota North Stars.  He was born in Montreal May 14, 1929, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980.  He died January 26, 2007, in Montreal.  

Vsevelod Bobrov – Olympic Soccer and Hockey

Bobrov was not a Canadian, but he helped make Canadian hockey history when he coached the Soviet Union at the famous 1972 Ice Hockey Summit Series.  This series, which shook Canadian hockey to its roots, changed Canadian hockey forever, and saw the Soviets win the first two games against the best the NHL could offer, but ended in Moscow with Canada winning in the final minute of the final game.  He was born December 1, 1922, in Morshansk, and served in the Soviet Army during World War Two.  He not only excelled at hockey, but also at soccer and bandy.  In 1945, while playing soccer for Moscow Spartak, he was invited to be a guest player on the never-to-be-forgotten Moscow Dynamo tour of Great Britain.  His play on this tour against such famous teams as Arsenal, Chelsea and Rangers attracted a great deal of attention, and he scored six goals.  Despite being regarded as one of the Soviet Union’s greatest ever soccer players, he only played three times for the national team, all during the 1952 Summer Olympics in Finland when he scored five goals, including a hat-trick against Yugoslavia.

In the hockey world, he began playing for CDKA in Moscow a year after this soccer start, and his hockey career lasted until 1957.  His team won the Soviet championship seven times, and he scored 254 goals in only 130 games.  He became one of the few athletes to play in both the Summer and Winter Olympics when he played in the 1956 Winter games and won a gold medal for hockey.  He also helped the Soviet Union win the World Hockey Championship in 1954 and 1956.  Overall, he scored 89 goals in 59 games for his country.  On retiring from playing, he coached both soccer and hockey, and when he was taken ill, was coaching the Kairat team in the then Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan in the soccer league in the Soviet Union.  He died in Moscow on July 1, 1979.   

Jim Corsi – Dual International

Born in Montreal, Quebec, in 1954 of Italian parents, Jim grew up playing both soccer and hockey.  In 1973, he was a member of the Canadian national team squad that played a number of games in Europe and appeared for Canada against Malta.  However, in hockey he was a goaltender, and because of his Italian background, was able to play for Italy in international competition as well as in the National Hockey League for Quebec Nordiques (1977–1979) and Edmonton Oilers (1979–80) and later in Italy for Cortina and Varese.  In total, he played 147 times for Italy including the 1982, 1983 and 1992 World Championships.

Peter Zezel – Youth International

Peter played twice for the national youth team in the CONCACAF Youth Tournament held in Guatemala in 1982, appearing against the United States and Costa Rica.  During that summer, he also played for the Toronto Blizzard second team as it toured Southern Ontario, playing games against local teams.  However, Peter had already chosen hockey over soccer and had been selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in round 2 of the 1983 National Hockey League draft.  However, he remained in the Ontario Hockey League with the Toronto Marlboros for the 1983–84 season before joining the Flyers in 1984–85.  He was traded from Philadelphia to the St. Louis Blues in 1988, then to the Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, Kalamazoo Wings (IHL), Dallas Stars, back to St. Louis, then on to the New Jersey Devils, Albany River Rats (AHL), Vancouver Canucks and finally the Cambridge Hornets of the OHA senior.  He was born in Toronto, April 22, 1965.