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Canadian History for Kids: Frank McGee

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One and Canadian History for Kids have assembled 31 remarkable stories about incredible people, places and events which helped shape our amazing nation.

A grateful nation never forgets a hero.

Frank McGee’s accomplishments are surprising, bearing in mind his best years with Ottawa’s Silver Seven came after he lost sight in one eye and before the tender age of twenty-three. ‘One-Eyed’ McGee’s record of fourteen goals in one Stanley Cup match still stands 105 years later.

Born in Ottawa, Frank came from a prominent family. His uncle was Thomas D’Arcy McGee (a Father of the Confederation) and his father Joseph was Clerk of the Privy Council. Frank shined at sports, playing lacrosse and rugby as well as hockey. As half-back for Ottawa City rugby team, he helped win the Canadian championship in 1898.

In 1900 Frank’s career appeared at an unexpected end after a nasty blow to the left eye by an opponent’s stick during a charity match in Hawkesbury, Ontario left him blind in that eye. Frank loved the game to much to leave it behind, so he became a referee.

Being a referee only made him miss playing more, so he joined the Ottawa Senators in 1903. Despite the rough-sounding nickname, “One-Eyed” McGee became known for his perfectly clean and pressed uniform and play-making.

He was averaging three goals a game, and his 63 goals in 22 Cup games stands as a pre-NHL era record. His most notable accomplishment, a record fourteen goals in a single Cup game came on January 16, 1905 against the Dawson City Nuggets. Eight of those goals were scored at nearly a goal-a-minute pace.

McGee’s remarkable skill and precision helped lead Ottawa to three successive Stanley Cup championship years from 1903 to 1906, defeating the Rat Portage Thistles, Winnipeg Rowing Club, Toronto Marlboros, Brandon Wheat Kings, and Montreal Wanderers along the way. He played alongside fellow future Hall of Famers Alf Smith, Harry Westwick, Billy Gilmour and Tommy Smith.

Ottawa lost the Cup to the Montreal Wanderers in 1906, and after McGee retired at age twenty-three. His job with the Bureau of Indian Affairs prevented him from travelling with the team much.

When World War I began, McGee somehow managed to enlist in the army in 1915, despite his bad eye.

The reason he was allowed to serve despite having only one good eye is debated, but the two most believed reasons are that he fooled the eye examiner and/or the fact that his father was a high ranking Canadian politician.

He became Lieutenant Frank McGee, of the 43rd Regiment (Duke of Cornwall’s Own Rifles) of the 21st Infantry Battalion in early 1915. In December of that year, he was travelling in an armoured car in Belgium, hit by a shell and suffered a knee injury. He recuperated in England and was offered a desk job at Le Havre, France, which he refused. On September 16, 1916, Lt. McGee was killed in action at Courcelette, one of 624,000 Allied troops who gave their lives during the Battle of the Somme.

When the Hockey Hall of Fame inducted its first members in 1946, Frank “One-Eyed” McGee was one of them. In 1966, he was also inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. A fitting tribute to not only a hockey hero, but also a national hero.

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