Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bruce Gamble, The Return to Glory in '66

With a career NHL won-lost record of 18-52-11, goaltender Bruce Gamble chose to sit out the 1964/65 hockey season. The reason wasn't so much his own performance, he had after all gone 145-112-28 in the minors since 1958, the reason was Eddie Shore. Gamble would rather not play hockey than play any longer for the tyrannical owner and coach of the AHL's Springfield Indians. Shore suspended him, and Bruce Gamble went home to Thunder Bay, Ont. to work in the local grain elevators.

Toronto Maple Leaf GM and coach rescued Gamble from the clutches of Shore in Sept. 1965 by trading two players to Springfield and a few months later, Gamble re-payed the favour. After injuries to Leaf goalies Johnny Bower, Terry Sawchuk and fill-ins Gary and Al Smith, Imlach summoned for Gamble from Tulsa of the Central League.

On March 2, 1966 he started against the Canadiens, and stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 3-3 tie. Imlach threw him back in the next night of the home and home set, although he had not many other options. Gamble shut out the Habs in a 4-0 win. Two nights later he shut out Chicago 5-0.
Over the next week, Bruce Gamble won three more times, 5-3 over Boston, 1-0 over Detroit and 6-0 against the Bruins again.

After a week and a half back in the NHL, Gamble had gone 5-0-1 with a GAA of 1.00 and 4 shutouts. After a 5-1 loss to the Hawks on March 13 Punch Imlach said `I told Bruce before the game I should send him back to Tulsa before his luck ran out`. It did. In the next game against Montreal, stretching to stop a Jean Beliveau drive, he pulled his hamstring. Bower was just well enough to replace him. Gamble returned to play just over two additional periods the rest of the season. He was back to help win a Cup the following season and would be the Leafs number one until Feb. 1971. He was then traded to the Flyers along with Mike Walton for Bernie Parent.

Just over one year later, while playing the Canucks in Vancouver Gamble suffered a heart attack. In the third period of the game he fell and could not get up. He asked defenseman Barry Ashbee who had hit him and was told nobody. This was the end of the career for Bruce Gamble.
He became a scout for the Flyers and passed away from another heart attack in 1982 at the age of 44.

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