The whole point of this project is to take into account the entire career of a goalie who was in the spotlight for 15 minutes and is often remembered at the most random times. This week's inductee does hit that mark, but like the others-- marred by injuries and happenstance, which halted his career going forward. This week, we look at the guy who almost overtook the Canucks' cage in the early 90s, which could have changed their history....or not. This week, we look at Troy Gamble.
Gamble's plight started out with the Hobberma Hawks of the AJHL Junior A level, where he would go 6-19-1. While it wasn't the best record to sport, he turned his fortune around the next season (1984-85) with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, where he would play 37 games and have a stellar 27-6-2 record, while going 1-1 in two playoff games. That season afforded Gamble Eastern First Team All-Star and Goaltender of the Year honors after the season. It allowed Gamble to be drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the 1985 Draft in the second round. The 1985-86 season saw another solid season for Gamble with the Tigers, going 28-11-0 in 45 games, with a 5-4 playoff record in 11 games in the post season.
The 1986-87 season had Gamble start off with the Tigers, going 7-3-0 in 11 games, before he would get a call-up for his first game in the NHL with the Canucks in late November, losing 5-2. The Tigers then traded Gamble to the Spokane Chiefs in December, where he would play 38 games and put a 17-17-1 record together before getting swept in five games in the semi-finals to the Portland Winterhawks. The 1987-88 season saw Gamble back in Spokane and he compiled another solid year with a 36-26-1 record in 67 games, but going 7-8 in 15 playoffs games; losing in the Division Finals. Yet, it was a good enough year for Gamble to take home another Goaltender of the Year and West First Team All-Star awards for the season.
Gamble would move onto the pro-ranks in the 1988-89 season, playing with the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL for 42 games, with a solid 23-9-0 record, while getting a five game call-up with the Vancouver Canucks, going 2-3-0 in this stint. Gamble would get the Admirals to the playoffs, going 5-5 in 11 games of the post-season. It was back in Milwaukee for the 1989-90 season for Gamble, as he would play 56 games for the Admirals with a 22-21-4 record, then going 2-2 in five playoff games.
The 1990-91 season brought about an interesting situation for Gamble, who was in the running for the starting job for the Canucks, as incumbent starter, Kirk McLean, seemed to be having issues with consistency. Gamble got more games in than McLean that season, going 16-16-6 in 47 games, while going 1-3 in four playoff games. The 1991-92 season should have been a breakout season for Gamble, however-- he was to deal with concussion problems throughout the season-- only playing 19 games with Vancouver with a 4-9-3 record. Gamble would also play with the Milwaukee Admirals for nine games with a 2-4-2 record.
Gamble would split the 1992-93 season between the AHL's Hamilton Canucks and IHL's Cincinnati Cyclones. With Hamilton for 14 games, Gamble went 1-10-2, while in 33 games with Cincinnati, Gamble had an 11-18-2 record.
The 1993-94 season started the IHL years for Gamble, playing that first season with the Kalamazoo Wings; going 25-13-5 in 48 games, then going 0-1 in two post-season games. In 1994-95 season, Gamble would move south to Houston to play for the Aeros for 43 games that season; compiling an 18-17-5 record and going 1-3 in four playoff games. Gamble would stay in Houston for the 1995-96 season, but to less than desirable results-- playing 52 games with a 16-25-5 record. Gamble would retire after that season.
Gamble stayed in the Houston area, becoming color commentator for the Aeros for a few seasons after his retirement, but faded off into obscurity. Though, his name did come up recently-- however through the tragedy of his son being killed in Afghanistan.
If not for concussion issues, who knows what could have happened with Gamble's career with the Canucks. That said, he didn't seem to be the same after the concussions, as his records would show-- even though you cannot determine if that's from the concussions or if it's due to the teams around him. Yet, after an impressive junior career and promising NHL stint, you would have hoped that if not for the injuries-- he could have done something while up in the Canucks system, which could have changed everything about Kirk McLean that the Canucks fans come to know. But, no need to live in hypothetical, because we didn't have to deal with it one way or another.