Esso Hockey since 1936Legends Of Hockey
Esso Hockey since 1936
Worsley, Gump

Worsley, Gump

Although Worsley played 21 years in the NHL, his career didn't begin until he was 24 years old. Prior to his 1952-53 rookie season with the Rangers, he played in five different leagues, winning honors and trophies at virtually every stop along the way. He was named the top rookie and best goalie in the USHL with the St. Paul Saints in 1950-51, was named the league's MVP in the Western League during his year with the Vancouver Canucks in 1953-54 and was placed on All-Star teams just about everywhere he went.

He won the Calder Trophy his first year in the NHL despite a record of 13-29-8, testament to his tremendous play on an otherwise weak team. But the next season the Rangers sent him to Vancouver, the only time a Calder winner never played a single NHL game the year after being so honoured. The following year he made the Broadway Blueshirts and stayed in the pro crease for the next decade.

They made the playoffs only four of the ten seasons, and although he was spectacular as the last line of defense, the team wasn't very good. But in 1963 the general managers' meetings were in Montreal and Worsley was traded from New York to the Habs during the course of the June weekend.

The additional pressure of playing in Montreal and the expectation of winning seemed to have nothing but a positive impact on Worsley's game. In his first season, however, he hurt his knee and played most of the year in the minors with the Quebec Aces to get in shape. He started the next season with the Aces but was called up to the Forum in mid-season and played heroically the rest of the way in leading the Habs to the 1965 Stanley Cup. He would never play in the minors again.

In his seven seasons with Montreal, he was on four Cup-winning teams, but his career with the bleu, blanc et rouge ended on November 28, 1969, in Chicago when his fear of flying got the better of him during an NHL schedule that demanded almost constant air travel. He retired.

However, later in that 1969-70 season, Worsley was convinced by Minnesota general manager Wren Blair to return to the expansion North Stars for the last few games of the season. Minnesota didn't have too many plane trips in its schedule, and Blair was also willing to pay Gump an additional $500 for a win, $250 for a tie and $100 for a shutout, over and above his salary. Worsley accepted and spent four more years in the NHL. He didn't retire until he was 44 years old, and it was only in the final six games of that final 1973-74 season that he wore a mask.

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