11.04.2009

Obligatory Lowetide Impression




He looked more like our fathers, not a goalie, player, athlete period. Smoke, half ash, stuck in that permanent smirk, tugging jersey around the beergut, "I'm strictly a whiskey man" was one of the sticks he taped up and gave to a nation of pudgy boys in beverage rooms. Favourites from Plimpton's list of objects thrown by Rangers fans: soup cans, a persimmon, eggs, a folding chair and a dead rabbit. The nervous breakdown of '68-'69 after pant-crap flights from LA, the expansion, "the shrink told me to change occupations. I had to forget it." He swore he was never afraid of the puck. We believe him. If anyone asks, the inscription should read, "My face was my mask."
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Elegy for Gump Worsley by The Weakerthans

This is Lorne "Gump" Worsley, taking those Weakerthan lyrics a bit too seriously, in a photo that was clearly taken some time in the later half of the 1960s. Gump, so named apparently because of his resemblance to Andy from The Gumps, played in goal for the Edmonton Flyers for part of a season in 1952-53, more than a decade after my own grandfather spent a couple of seasons doing the same thing. That year he was called up to the big club in New York, where he would spend most of the next decade plying his trade. That year he was also apparently part of the
Hakoah de Montréal soccer team that made it to the Canadian Championship. Based on what I've seen and read about him, it sounds like the Weakerthans are right: there's no way Gump was ever afraid of the puck. With all the talk lately about 50 years of goalie masks in the NHL, I wish we would hear more about the men who said no. The men who felt that there were some things more important than avoiding pain and personal injury. The men like Gump Worsley.

Gump played his last game in the NHL more than 10 years before I was born, and played his last home game on Broadway before The Beatles had had their first number 1 hit. Since then, the Rangers have had some nice goalies, including the man who took over for Gump in New York, who everyone seems to be talking about these days. Continuing the tradition in net for the Rangers today is Henrik Lundqvist, who's off to another nice start this year (.918). Goals have been tough to come by for the Oilers lately, and going up agains Lundqvist isn't going to help. I was hoping that the Oilers had weathered the worst of their injury/flu-bug troubles, but with word Wednesday that Horcoff is out, and Hemsky may not be far behind, it looks like things are going from bad to worse. The Oilers have a couple of surprise players so far this season in Minard and Linglet putting up runs in AAA (7th and 3rd in AHL scoring respectively), but I'm not holding my breath that there are any answers in Springfield.

I don't want to sound too pessimistic, but if you've got tickets to the game, you might want to consider picking up a persimmon or two on the way to the rink.

2 comments:

  1. That's what I said about the Weakerthans song.

    ReplyDelete