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Gump Worsley, 77, Hall of Famer Who Won Four Titles, Is Dead
By FRANK LITSKY
Published: January 29, 2007
Gump Worsley, the pudgy but agile Hall of Fame goaltender who spent a decade with the Rangers, played on four Stanley Cup championship teams with the Montreal Canadiens and was among the last goalies to play without a mask, died Saturday in Beloeil, Quebec. He was 77.
Worsley, who made his National Hockey League debut in 1952, played 21 seasons, most of them when the N.H.L. had only six teams. He spent 10 years with the Rangers, six-plus years with the Canadiens and four-plus years with the Minnesota North Stars.
In 861 regular-season games, he had 335 victories, 352 losses and 150 ties, with 43 shutouts. In 70 playoff games, his record was 40-26. He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980 and played in four N.H.L. All-Star Games.
Worsley hated playing with a protective mask. “My face is my mask,” he said. “If goaltenders were afraid of being hurt, they wouldn’t be out there at all.”
He said any goalie who wore a mask was scared, to which the Canadiens’ Jacques Plante, another leading goalie of that era, replied, “If you jumped out of a plane without a parachute, would that make you brave?”
But when Plante was hit in the face by a shot and Worsley was knocked unconscious by a puck to his face, Worsley began experimenting with wearing a mask.
“It was too hot, and I couldn’t see the puck between my legs,” he said. “I wore one for the last six games of my career.”
Lorne John Worsley was born May 14, 1929, in Montreal. His nickname came when a high school friend said Worsley reminded him of an inelegant comic-strip character named Andy Gump. Worsley, a 5-foot-7, 180-pounder, won the Calder Trophy as the N.H.L.’s rookie of the year with the Rangers in 1952-53 and went on to play nine more seasons with usually bad Ranger teams. When he was traded to the Canadiens in an eight-player deal that sent Plante to the Rangers, Worsley said: “I just got a break. I was liberated.”
In Montreal, he shared the Vezina Trophy in 1966 and 1968 as the N.H.L.’s best goalie.
But all was not well. In the seventh and deciding game of the 1965 playoffs, he had a knee injury so bad that he did not appear able to play. He was injected with a horse serum never before used on a human and went on to shut out the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that included Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita.
His fear of flying led to a nervous breakdown. Once, when he was returning home from a game in Los Angeles, he got off the plane in Chicago and took a train to Montreal.
In 2003, he told The Gazette: “The Canadiens sent me to a shrink, and he told me the only cure was to change occupations. I had to forget it.”
Fans were often intolerant, and George Plimpton wrote in his book “Open Net” that objects thrown at Worsley during his career included “eggs, beer, soup cans, marbles, an octopus, rotten fish, light bulbs, ink bottles, a dead turkey, a persimmon, a folding chair and a dead rabbit.” No wonder Worsley once said that the only job worse than a hockey goalie was “being the javelin catcher on a track team.”
Finishing his career with Minnesota, Worsley turned 45 a week after the 1974 playoffs ended. He retired and spent the next 14 years as a scout for the team.
His survivors include his wife, Doreen.
In later years, Worsley hardly followed the N.H.L., saying, “I don’t like the style: shoot it in and chase it.” But he loved to tell stories about his playing days, especially with the lowly Rangers. Once, when he was playing for them, he was asked which team was toughest for him. He had a quick answer.
“The Rangers,” he said.
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