Lieutenant Colonel Archie Earchman, D.S.O.
228th (Northern Fusiliers) Battalion
Col. Earchman was the most popular officer ever connected with a hockey club, and he drilled it into his men to play that game. They carried this out at all times. The best wishes of every player, fan and citizen go with the Battalion.
(Porcupine Advance, 21 Feb 1917, 6)
When Archibald Earchman began organizing the 228th Battalion in early 1916, he was as much interested in putting together a championship hockey team as he was an effective military unit. In total, he recruited over sixty semi-professional and amateur players. Earchman entered a team into the 1916/1917 season National Hockey Association but they were forced to withdraw when the battalion was ordered overseas in February 1917.
Born in Epsom, Ontario on 4 October 1881, Earchman was a railroad engineer and sports enthusiast. A longtime member of the 48th Highlanders and the 34th Ontario Regiment, he originally went overseas as a major with the 20th Battalion. After suffering a knee injury from slipping in trench, he was invalided home.
He returned to raise the 228th Railway Battalion from northern Ontario. The Toronto Globe declared, “It is probably the most diversified unit ever recruited in Canada, the battalion including such picturesque types as hunters, trappers, guides, prospectors, Hudson Bay Company employees and Cree Indians.”
In organizing a battalion hockey club, Earchman not only hoped to win the NHA championship but he also aimed to use the excitement surrounding the games to recruit sports fans. The colonel was later involved in a minor scandal when certain hockey players alleged that they had been promised commissions simply to play the game with the tacit understanding that they would not have to go overseas. “Thoroughly disgusted with the notoriety we have been subjected to in connection with hockey,” an anonymous officer of the 228th later argued that the battalion should never have engaged in the sports business at all.
When ordered overseas in February, team manager Captain Leon Reade attempted to convince military authorities to allow the Northern Fusiliers to finish the NHA season but he was denied. Reade resigned in protest. In France, the 228th was redesignated the 6th Railway Troops under Earchman’s command. The colonel was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and twice mentioned in the dispatches in recognition for his unit’s construction work.
During the Great Depression, Earchman operated Relief Camp No. 150 at Camp Madawaska. In 1935, the R.C.M.P. and O.P.P arrested him for embezzling canteen funds. He pled guilty to embezzling $906 and was sentenced to one year at the Guelph Reformatory.
Earchman died in July 1956.
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