Monday, July 18, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: Bruce Gamble

This week, the profile of a man who lived a great hockey career, but had it unceremoniously ended due to health issues and then had his own mortality shorted from the same condition. It's A sad tale, but more a reflection on the life that he did lead on the rink. This week, the profile of Bruce Gamble.

Gamble's assent to the pros started with the Thunder Bay Junior League, which was a Junior A league. Gamble played with the Port Arthur Bruins in the 1952-53 season playing in 11 games with a 7.40 GAA. His role would expand in the 1953-54 season with the Bruins, going 20-15-1 in 36 games. While he didn't play in the 1954-55 season, Gamble returned to the TBJHL, but with the Port Arthur North Stars in 1955-56 playing in 31 games and compiling a 19-10-2 record, then going 8-1 in the playoffs to help capture the TBJHL title. Gamble and the North Stars would go 7-6 in 13 Memorial Cup playdown game, losing to the Regina Pats in the Abbott Cup Finals.

Gamble would move onto the Ontario Hockey Association's Guelph Biltmores for the 1956-57 season, playing 40 games with six shutouts, then getting them to the Memorial Cup playdown, though only going 1-4. Gamble returned to Guelph for the start of the 1957-58 season, going 13-32-5 in 50 games, but he would be loaned out to the Ottawa-Hull Junior Canadiens, where he would go 10-3 in the Memorial Cup playdown, helping the Canadiens to win the Richardson Memorial Trophy for the Eastern Canadian Championship; then the Memorial Cup.

Gamble would end the 1957-58 season with the Providence Reds of the AHL winning the only game he played in.

The 1958-59 season, Gamble would move out West to play for the Western Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks, going 29-26-10 with seven shutouts; helping him win the WHL Rookie of the Year award. However, Gamble would go 2-3 in five playoff games for the Canucks. Gamble was promoted to the NHL with the New York Rangers that season for two games, losing both.

The Boston Bruins claimed Gamble in the 1959 Intra-League Draft and sent him to the Providence Reds of the AHL for the 1959-60 season, which had Gamble go 37-32-2 in 71 games, but then going 1-4 in the playoffs. Gamble would play in Providence for 19 games in the the 1960-61 season with a 6-13-0 record, but was still promoted to the Boston Bruins, going 12-33-7 in 52 games. The Bruins loaned out Gamble at the start of the 1961-62 season to the Portland Buckaroos of the WHL, where he would bounce back with a 28-11-2 record in 41 games. When being recalled by the Bruins, he went 6-18-4 in 28 games with the Bruins.

Gamble moved onto the Kingston Frontenacs of the Eastern Professional League in the 1962-63 season, going 39-18-11 in the 68 games he played in. The 1963-64 season had Gamble moved to the Springfield Indians by a trade of the NHL-AHL sort from the Bruins and he went 5-12-3 in the 21 games he played in. The 1964-65 season had Gamble get suspended by the Indians for refusing to report to the team, which lasted the entire season.

Springfield traded Gamble to the Toronto Maple Leafs ahead of the 1965-66 season, where he would play 10 games in that season, going 5-2-3 in that time. However, he spent most of the season with the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Professional League, recording a 21-24-9 record in 54 games. Gamble would do the split again in the 1966-67 season, going 5-10-4 in 23 games with the Leafs, 2-4-1 in only seven games with Tulsa, then made a stop with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, going 2-3 in five games there.

With the expansion era, the 1967-68 season allowed Gamble to stay in Toronto for the season, playing in 41 games and finishing with a 19-13-3 record backing up Johnny Bower. The 1968-69 season had Gamble in the starting role over Bower, playing in 61 games that season with a 28-20-11 record to show, then a 0-2 record in the playoffs. Gamble had a bit of a downslide in the 1969-70 season with the Leafs, finishing his 52 game season with a 19-24-9 record with five shutouts. The slide continued in the 1970-71 season with Jacques Plante coming onto the scene in Toronto, Gamble only went 6-14-1 in 23 games before he went on his way out.

The Leafs would trade Gamble to the Philadelphia Flyers for Bernie Parent. The end of that season with the Flyers, Gamble went 3-6-2 in 11 games. The 1971-72 season was a short-one for Gamble-- going only 7-8-2 in 24 games before his season immediately shut-down.

On February 8th, 1972-- Gamble was in net for the Flyers against the Vancouver Canucks in a 3-1 win. After the game and after reaching Oakland with the team, Gamble complained of chest pains and was sent to an Oakland hospital. It was found out that Gamble had suffered a heart attack during the Vancouver game and with this heart attack, it ended his career abruptly.

Ten years later, after a practice with the "old-timer" team, the Niagara Falls Flames, Gamble had chest pains again and passed away in a Niagara Falls hospital at age 44.

There seemed to be a roller coaster of events during his career, but Gamble kept plugging away and probably could have done much more if not for his health. He persevered and knew where he wanted to be and would accept nothing less. He did what he loved and gave his all to the game.

3 comments:

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baron said...

March 16th 1968 at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Gamble got a 3-0 shutout and played superbly. It was my very first NHL game. He was my hero of sorts, I also met him and talked with him on the phone once, as he used to frequent the Toronto Radio Artists Club on Bay Street where my father was nightclub manager. I have his goalie stick signed by the Leaf team of '68.