Story of the Week
"If you want to be a good goaltender, it helps if you’re a little nuts," claimed Lorne Worsley. "Gump" Worsley was all of that, and then some. And his round face and short, pudgy physique added to his humorous persona. A boyhood friend in Montreal had named him after the comic-strip character, Andy Gump, and it stuck. And because Worsley was so short, for his own safety, he wasn’t allowed to play any position other than goaltender.
Young "Gump" was a New York Ranger rookie in 1952-53. He was taught by veteran goaltender, Chuck Rayner, how to cut down the shooters’ angles, and how to position himself in the net on breakaways. There was nothing funny about Worsley when he played hockey in that net.
Worsley won NHL "Rookie-of-the-Year" honors, but, because he had the audacity to ask for a raise, he spent the next year in the minors. (The pendulum has definitely swung the other way since those days.) He came back to the Rangers the following season.
The Rangers were the NHL’s doormat. A reporter once asked the goalie what team gave him the most trouble. "The Rangers," quipped Worsley. It was a classic and an accurate response. "Gump" faced a barrage of shots every night. It was not uncommon for him to defend 50-60 shots a game, but he was still able to post a decent goals-against average of 3.10 over 10 seasons with his frightful team.
In 1963, he was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. But he had greatdifficulty establishing himself with his new team. In his eighth game, he pulled a hamstring muscle and was sent to the minors to get in shape. He didn’t return to Montreal until a year and a half later.
But "Gump" worked hard to reestablish himself as a top goalie. He tasted his first Stanley Cup champagne that spring. He shared the Vezina Trophy with Charlie Hodge. The Canadiens won the Cup the following year as well. At the age of 39, Worsley played his best hockey during the expansion year of 1967-68. He and Rogie Vashon shared the Vezina Trophy, but St. Louis goalie Glenn Hall was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for that year.Montreal won the Cup yet again.
League expansion, West Coast included, obviously caused a great deal of air travel. That’s the last thing Worsley wanted. He was a white-knuckle flyer, and hated that aspect of his business. He literally suffered an emotional collapse during the 1968-69 season, but came back to help his team win another Stanley Cup. The next season found Vashon doing most of the goaltending for Montreal, and Worsley was sent down to the minors; he went home instead.
The Minnesota North Stars persuaded him to return to the NHL, and he did so. His rebirth in Minnesota lasted five seasons. His game-of-games as a member of the North Stars was stopping 67 shots against the powerful Boston Bruins, and that feat as a very veteran goalie. Lorne Worsley retired in 1974 shortly before his 45th. birthday. He entered the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980.
Last Week’s Trivia
What Super Bowl featured co-MVP’s? Who were they? Super Bowl XII saw Dallas defeat Denver, 27-10. The co-MVP’s were Harvey Martin and Randy White of the Cowboys.
Trivia Question of the Week
What great football player of the ‘70’s won back-to-back Heismans? He was a three-time All American. See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.