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Goodbye to Gump

Posted at 8:10 PM on January 28, 2007 by Bill Wareham

I'm no longer the hockey fan I was when I was a kid; I can barely fake my way through a conversation with my rink rat nephews anymore. (Truth is, I probably can't, but they're too polite to point it out.)

But back before my teenage years my brother Pete and I used to fall asleep watching North Stars games on a a tiny black-and-white TV in our bedroom, usually with the sound turned down so we could listen to Al Shaver doing play-by-play.

And back in those days the guy in the crease was as likely as not Gump Worsley, who came to the Stars in 1970 to finish out his career. Worsley died Friday after a heart attack. He was 77. From the Associated Press obit:

MONTREAL -- 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.

Worsley was sold to the expansion North Stars for cash in 1970 and retired, but was talked into playing four more years in Minnesota.

He wore a mask only for the final six games before he retired in 1974 to his longtime home in Beloeil. He then worked many years as a scout for the North Stars.

Worsley retired with a career record of 335-352-150 with 43 shutouts. In the playoffs, he was 40-26 with five shutouts. When he left the NHL, only one goalie, Andy Brown of the Pittsburgh Penguins, was still not wearing a mask.