As Remembrance Day arrives, hockey fans will see this picture of members of the Toronto Maple Leafs marching through a trench with their muskats on their shoulders. But why? Where did this occur? Were the Leafs really training for the war?
This image below has been circulating for some time now. I have never received the story of how, why and where this photo originated.. until now. You will see that these young Leafs were marching through the trenches, assembling a machine gun onto a tripod with rounds of ammunition. The 5 Leafs marching with rifles are Bob Davidson, Turk Broda, Sweeney Schriner, Billy Taylor and Pete Langelle, trailed by 3 Leafs carrying a machine gun, tripod and ammunition.
While researching a story, I came across the headline "MAPLE LEAFS TRAIN SECRETLY WITH CANADIAN ARMY" from Nov 25, 1939, and just knew I had found the article that would explain the reason for the pictures we have seen so often.
The images were taken at Long Branch (Toronto), while the Leafs trained under the Toronto Scottish Regiment. By the spring, all the players, including Conn Smythe and Dick Irvin, would be qualified machine-gunners.
The article states the Leafs have devoted 2 hours a day since the start of the month to the chore of fitting themselves for active service "When, if, how and where the Government should call on
them". The part in quotes is taken directly from a pledge each player signed before he was given a contract for 1939-40 season.
Here are more images and the original article