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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Lost Cards: 1975-75 OPC Gump Worsley

   "Little round man of the Ranger nets just as quick with a quip as he is with a kick save." says the back of Lorne "Gump" Worsley's 1962-63 Topps card.  Without a doubt, Gump was one of the hockey's more memorable personalites.

  Lorne Worsley was bestowed the nickname "Gump" as a child, due to as resemblance to Andy Gump of The Gumps comic strip.   Not exactly a flattering comparison.  Gump dreamed of playing professional hockey but due to his lack of size, he was sent to man the pipes.  The change in positions benefited Gump greatly.  He tried out and made the Verdun Cyclones of the Quebec Junior Hockey League in 1946.  This was back during the era of sponsorship and since the Rangers sponsored the Cyclones, they now owned Worsley's NHL rights.  

  Worsley turned pro in 1949 and spent three seasons in the minors from 1949 to 1952 until he caught a break.  Future Hall of Famer goalie Chuck Rayner was injured during the 1952 preseason.  Worsley started the season as the Ranger's goalie.  Worsley was sent back down when Rayner returned in mid-November.  About two months later, Rayner, succumbed to injuries, and retired.  Worsley was recalled and finished the season for the Rangers.  Gump was 2-10-3, 3.67 before Rayner's retirement and 11-19-5, 2.74 afterwards.  His strong play in the second half of the season helped earn him the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie.  To reward Gump for his play, the Rangers sent him to the minors and signed another rookie goalie, Johnny Bower, to take over in net.  Gump had reported to training camp over-weight and demanding a raise.  Gump Worsley is the only Calder winner to not play the season after winning the Calder.

  The following season, 1954-55, Gump and Bower switched roles.  Bower went to the minors and Gump was the starter.  Gump was the Rangers starter for the next nine seasons, although he was twice sent to the minors for Marcel Paille.  The Rangers were one of the worst teams during the Gump's time with them, only making the play-offs four times in 10 seasons.  During that time, Gump lead the league in losses three times.  Gump holds the tops two spots for most Saves and Most Shots Against in a single NHL season.  When a reporter asked Gump what team gives him the most trouble, Gump replied "The Rangers".  

1962-63 Topps Lorne Worsley

  After being a fixture on Broadway, Gump was involved in a blockbuster trade.  As part of the seven player trade, Gump was sent to his hometown, Montreal.  Going the other was legend Jacques Plante.  It was a contentious trade in Montreal.  Plante and Worsley entered the league at about the same time.  Worsley had a Calder trophy and led the league in losses three times.  Plante had 6 Stanley Cups, 6 Vezina trophies and a Hart trophy.  It didn't help matters when Worsley was injured in his first month as a Hab and spent the rest of the season, and start of the next, in the minors upon his return.  

  At age 35, it appeared Gump's NHL career might be over.  He began the 1964-65 season in the minors.  Injuries once again opened the door for Worsley.  After a injury to Charlie Hodge, the Canadiens recalled Gump.  Gump played well enough for the Canadiens to carry two goalies the rest of the season.  The tandem backstopped the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup victory, with Gump earning a shutout in game seven of the Finals. 

  Overall, Gump played six seasons for the Montreal Canadiens, wining two Vezinas and four Stanley Cups.  Everything was going great for Gump, until the NHL expanded in 1967.  Not only did the NHL expand in size, it expanded in time zones by expanding west, including two teams in California.  Gump was always trepid regarding flying, had a breakdown during a rough flight on November 23rd of 1968.  The Montreal Canadiens were flying to Los Angeles, with a stopover in Chicago.  After some turbulence between Montreal and Chicago, Gump left the team and drove back to Montreal.  He was off for over a month on medical leave before rejoining the team.  Gump regained his starting job from rookie Rogie Vachon, but injuries knocked him out of the play-offs.  The Canadiens went on to win their 4th Stanley Cup in five years.  

1969-70 OPC Gump Worsley

  The following season Gump found himself as the back-up to Rogie Vachon, who was about 16 years his junior.  By early December, Rogie had started 75% of the games.  Scheduled to start against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gump was pulled aside, and the start given to to Rogie.  Gump had clashed with coaches over practicing and he was sent down to the minors to get more practice.  Instead of reporting, Gump retired.

  Gump's retirement last about four months.  He was talked into playing for the Minnesota North Stars.  The Canadiens traded his rights to the North Stars and Gump made his debut on March 4, 1970.  One of the factors for Gump unretiring was that Minnesota was a central team, there would be no long east-to-west flights.  He played four and half seasons for the North Stars.  His 2.12 GAA in 1971-72 was third best in the NHL.  He only played one more time in Montreal, a 7-2 loss in the 1971 play-offs.

1972-73 OPC Gump Worsley

  After injuries ended Gump's 72-73 season, he was certain that he had played his last NHL game.  After watching Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito give up a combined 45 goals in the Stanley Cup Finals, Gump figured he still had another year left in him.  Although Gump did the unthinkable, at least for Gump who was a strong proponent against the goalie mask.  When asked about wearing a goalie mask Gump replied "My face is my mask," and then suggested that any goalie who wears a mask is scared.   Although when Gump took the ice for his final season he did so wearing a goalie mask, at least for a few games.  Gump has said "I wore one for the last six games of my career", but evidence suggests he used it for at least his first game of the season, and the last game of the season, while playing without for a number games in between.  He wore a mask during his final season to protect his eyes, although he usually played without as he found the mask too hot.  

  Upon retiring, Gump's 860 career regular season games were 2nd most all time.  Upon retiring he became a scout for the Minnesota North Stars.  He was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980 and passed away in 2007.

  Gump was the second last goalie to play a NHL game without wearing a mask.  Andy Brown was the last and did it a few weeks after Gump last did.  This pictures of Gump wearing a mask are fairly rare, although there is a video of his final game online,  so when I came across this picture, which was decent quality, and combined with the fact he never had a proper career capper, I decided to action was needed.  Here is the Lost Card of 1974-75 OPC #397 Lorne "Gump" Worsley.

1974-75 OPC #397 Gump Worsley

1974-75 OPC #397 Gump Worsley

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