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by Darren Eliot
Friday, February 2, 2007

This past week saw the passing of Hall of Fame goaltender Lorne "Gump" Worsley along with the Montreal Canadiens retiring Ken Dryden’s famous No. 29. The two events sparked memories from a day long ago -- the time when I fell in love with the game of hockey and the position of goaltending.

Gump Worsley stood out to me from my hockey card collecting days -- long before collecting became a business. This was just an eight-year old kid organizing cards by team, reorganizing by position and studying all the statistics and information on the back of the cards. And there was that pudgy face with the flat top crew cut and the funny name -- Gump. The NHL had just expanded from six to 12 teams and the era of the bare-faced goaltender was coming to a close. Worsley held out until his final season in 1974 with the Minnesota North Stars, even though Jacques Plante had introduced the concept of goaltenders protecting their mugs in the 1950’s.

Gump was in a group of goalies that I got to "know" mainly through those trading cards – and we sure did trade, every recess and lunch time and those stolen moments on the playground before the bell rang signifying the beginning of classes. Guys like Gary "Suitcase" Smith, Les Binkley, Joe Daley, Charlie Hodge and Bruce Gamble I hardly ever actually saw play -- even on Hockey Night in Canada, except Gamble who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and they were always on Hockey Night -- yet I felt that I knew them because of those all-important-at-the-time hockey cards.

In retrospect, I knew very little about them, but Gump Worsley and the rest piqued my interest, led me to find out more about them -- to the point where I checked out the Roger Crozier Story 12 times (actual number may vary due to memory fatigue of the past 35 years) from our school library, reading and re-reading my favorite goaltender’s story so that I knew every detail. Those great goalies of the past led me to a point where, as a young adult, I actually got to meet another hero of mine, Ken Dryden.

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