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03-05-2011, 08:56 AM
  #75
Sturminator
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Here is a very interesting article written by Pit "Pete" Lepine, himself, about the art of the poke check. We should note that the poke and hook check were often mixed up lexically by commentators at the time, even by Lepine, himself, and the article below is almost certainly addressing the hook-check, which was much rarer than the fairly common poke-check, which is still used today. From the Providence News - February 24, 1928:

Quote:
The art of poke-checking, which has brought hockey fame to Frank Neighbor (sic) of the Ottawa Senators, and which he has perfected to the highest degree of excellence, in becoming of more pronounced value as time marks progress in the game and new rules add more science over the action. All hockey players are not good poke-checkers. It is a fact that a great many of the stars in big-time hockey lack a good check of this kind but there is a noticeable improvement through the ranks in the past few years. More attention is being paid to this qualification of the game, and the players are practicing it and making every effort to develop their play along this line...

Hooley Smith has an effective poke-check and he is going to add great strength to the Maroon front line on this ability alone. Frank Boucher, of the New York Rangers, is a young player that has developed a poke-check, and as he is improving with experience he will probably become one of the stars at this sort of play.

Last season Howie Morenz started to use a poke-check and at the close of the year he was getting very effective...

Aurel Joliat does considerable poke-checking, but it is not of the reaching kind. Aurel is tricky and deceiving as he skates and he finds his opportunities through outguessing his opponent...

Editor's Note: Pete Lepine ranks with the most powerful centers in big-time hockey. Defensively Lepine is the last word in hockey class.
So there is Lepine's own testimony on the subject. Note that what Joliat was doing sounds more like an advanced version of the standard poke-check than a true hook check, but as Lepine throws them all into the same basket, it is a little hard to sort out which technique was used by whom.

Also of great interest in tracing the lineage of the hook check is tracing how the skill was handed down from one player and one generation to the next. Jack Walker is said to have invented the hook-check, and Frank Nighbor to have perfected it. Walker and Nighbor's paths actually crossed professionally for a couple of seasons. They played together for Port Arthur Lake City of the NOHL in 1911-12, and Walker seems to have suffered a serious injury that season. He only played two games that year, was out of hockey, altogether in 1912-13 and would only play two regular season games in 1913-14 for the Toronto Blueshirts of the NHA. Walker was four years Nighbor's senior and would have had a lot of time on his hands throughout his recovery. We should note that Nighbor played for the Toronto Blueshirts in 1912-13, the year Jack Walker missed. It is quite possible that the Blueshirts had Walker's contract in 1912-13, although he was unable to play. If this is true, then Walker and Nighbor spent two seasons together as teammates. It seems quite likely that Nighbor learned the art of the hook-check at this time.

Smith played with Nighbor in Ottawa and learned hook-checking directly from the master, and Joliat played with Lepine in Montreal. Where Boucher and Lepine learned it is still a mystery to me. The rest of what I have is material specifically involving Hooley Smith and the Montreal Maroons, in general - specifically Babe Siebert. More to come.

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