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RED FISHER, CanWest News Service
Published: Sunday, January 28, 2007

Lorne (Gump) Worsley, the Hall of Fame goaltender who died on Friday in his 78th year, did it the hard way: He worked for it.

Worsley, who won four Stanley Cups with the Canadiens (in five seasons in the late 1960s) died at the Honore Mercier Hospital in St. Hyacinthe after he suffered a heart attack on Monday.

He had been ill for four years, his wife, Doreen Chapman, told The Gazette last night.

At 5-foot-7, 180 pounds, he looked nothing like a professional goaltender - but you don't play 21 seasons in the NHL without bringing something special to the arena.

He started his NHL career with the New York Rangers, bringing with him quick hands and feet - and a quicker lip.

Mind you, he didn't have a lot to laugh about on a team that made the playoffs only four times during his decade on Broadway - but Gump always found a way.

Phil Watson, one of his many coaches with the Rangers, once described Worsley as someone who carried around a "beer belly."

Worsley's response: "Tell Watson I drink only V.O."

Once, when he was asked which team in the Original Six NHL gave him the most trouble, his prompt reply was: "The Rangers."

Worsely was traded to the Canadiens in 1963 along with Dave Balon, Leon Rochefort and Len Ronson for Jacques Plante, Don Marshall and Phil Goyette.

For Worsley, it was a trade made in heaven, going from a team that had made a career out of losing to one with a mystique for winning.

He was injured in his eighth game in the 1963-64 season and upon his recovery was demoted to the Quebec Aces for the rest of the season. Worse, the injury almost brought an abrupt end to his Canadiens career.

Several days after he was hurt, Canadiens GM Frank Selke Sr. and I visited the Canadiens clinic. Worsley was on a gurney undergoing treatment.

He lay on the table, naked as a bird, and even Worsley would have been the first to admit it wasn't a pleasant sight. Put it this way: He wasn't a poster boy for NHLers dedicated to keeping trim.

GM Selke made it abundantly clear he wasn't impressed with the view. "That guy will never play another game with the Canadiens," he muttered.

Selke was wrong, even though Worsley started the following season in Quebec. He returned to the Canadiens in time to play 19 regular-season games and to lead them to their first Stanley Cup since they won their record fifth in a row in 1960.

He won five of the eight games he started in the playoffs, had two shutouts and a stunning 1.68 goals-against average.

He was even better the following season when he posted an 8-2 record in the 10 playoff games the Canadiens needed to win a second consecutive Stanley Cup.

The Gumper loved to play the clown, but with Worsley in the nets, the Canadiens won four Stanley Cups in five seasons, during which he won 29 of 36 playoff games.

Worsley was special on the ice and off it. He played more than two decades at the NHL level despite a fear of flying that would have driven most people out of the game.

Somehow, he managed to overcome his fright, which tells you all you need to know about the grit he brought to games with the Rangers, Canadiens and Minnesota North Stars, where he was traded by the Canadiens for cash in 1970.

His professional career started with the New York Rovers in the Quebec Senior Hockey League.

After that: New Haven in the AHL, St. Paul in the United States Hockey League, the Pacific Coast Hockey League Saskatchewan Quakers, the Edmonton Flyers and then finally to the Rangers, where he was to devote a decade of trying to make a winner out of a bad team.

He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980.

The family has announced that at the deceased's request, no funeral service is planned.

Donations can be made in his memory to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
 

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Worsley's stout body belied skill that helped Canadiens win 4 Cups


Associated Press
Jan 28, 2007, 6:09 PM EST


MONTREAL (AP) -Gump Worsley looked a bit out of place in goal during his 21-year NHL career - until they dropped the puck.

Then, the roly-poly maskless man in the net was at his nimble best.

Worsley, who died Friday at 77 after suffering a heart attack last Monday, used his 5-foot-7, 180-pound frame to forge a Hall of Fame career and help the Montreal Canadiens win four Stanley Cups in a five-year span.

"It was just his body shape," former teammate Gilles Tremblay said. "He was real quick in the net. He did his exercises. But some people are tall and thin like Ted Harris and some are built like Worsley."

Lorne John Worsley, who got his nickname as a child because his hair stuck up like cartoon character Andy Gump, won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie in 1966 and 1968, when he was also a first-team All-Star.

He was among the select few to play in net when the NHL had only six teams and teams carried only one, maskless goaltender. He went head-to-head with greats such as Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk, Glenn Hall and Johnny Bower.

Tremblay recalled a teammate who always had a smile and a joke in the dressing room and who was "very well liked all through the league.

"He'd walk through the room past guys with perfect builds and he'd say, `I've been in the league a lot of years with this belly, so I hope you guys can do as well as I did.' He always made us laugh," Tremblay said.

Worsley's physique moved Rangers coach Phil Watson to tell him, "You can't play goal with a beer belly." Worsley shot back: "I'm strictly a rye man."

What is less known about him was that he was also a pretty good soccer player.

Canadian soccer historian Colin Jose said that while playing hockey in the minor leagues for the Saskatoon Quakers in the early 1950s, Worsley played soccer in the summer for the Saskatoon Legion. He played for the Saskatchewan All-Stars against the touring Tottenham Hotspur in 1952 and, when he moved home to Montreal the next year, reached the Canadian championship soccer final with Montreal Hakoah.

But hockey was Worsley's passion from his childhood in Montreal's Pointe St. Charles district.

He grew up in a family that worshipped the defunct Montreal Maroons and didn't like the Canadiens. His favorite player was Rangers goalie Dave Kerr.

In his teens, he signed with the junior Verdun Cyclones, who were owned by the Rangers and, in those pre-draft days, became Rangers property.

He played minor league hockey for the New York Rovers, the St. Paul Saints, Saskatoon and the Edmonton Flyers before he was called up for the start of the 1952-53 NHL season after goalie Charlie Rayner was injured.

Worsley won the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie, only to be shocked when he was sent down to the Vancouver Canucks of the Western Hockey League the next season when the Rangers signed Bower. Worsley was back up with the Rangers in 1954-55 and played brilliantly for nine more seasons on mostly weak New York teams.

Lounging at home in the offseason in 1963, Worsley got a call from a friend to tell him he had been traded to Montreal along with Leon Rochefort, Dave Balon and Len Ronson for Plante, Phil Goyette and Don Marshall.

He turned on the radio and heard it himself.

"To this day, the Rangers have never told me I was traded," Worsley told the Hall of Fame.

He went from facing 40-50 shots a game in New York to a team that was a perennial powerhouse, still with some of the players from the team that won five straight Stanley Cups from 1956-1960.

Injuries caused him to spend most of the next two seasons with the Quebec Aces, but he was called up in 1964-65 and helped Montreal win four Cups in a five-year span, interrupted only by Toronto's last Stanley Cup triumph in 1967.

FULL STORY
 
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