Saturday, May 24, 2014

1959 Bill Dobbyn Benefit NHL All-Star Game

Bill Dobbyn was a 23-year old, highly regarded defense prospect for the New York Rangers in 1958/59. The bruising 6 ft, 190 lb rear-guard was coming off a terrific season with Vancouver Canucks of the Western League where he had 10 goals, 30 points and finished third in PIM's with 164. His 8 points in 11 playoff games helped the Canucks to the WHL Championship as well.

Dobbyn was the last cut of the Rangers before the 1958 season and was sent to Buffalo in the American Hockey League. By Christmas that year he was in the middle of another fine campaign with 10 points in 30 games, then tragedy struck. On December 27, 1958 in a game against Hershey, Dobbyn was struck in the left eye by the stick of Hershey captain Ellard "Obie" O'Brien. Dobbyn suffered a loss of the eye, and just like that, his NHL dream was over. Dobbyn himself took it all in stride saying,"Sure, I lost an eye, but I figure I'm pretty lucky anyway, I've got lots to be thankful for and everybody's been wonderful."

Detroit Red Wings general manager Jack Adams heard about Dobbyn's accident and proposed bringing his Wings to Buffalo to play a benefit game. Soon after, all the other NHL teams agreed to contribute players and the game became a mid-season All-Star affair. On February 17, 1959 the NHLers met at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium to play the Bisons, all proceeds going to Bill Dobbyn.

The NHL players in the match were as follows;
Toronto, Brian Cullen, Bert Olmstead, Ron Stewart.
Montreal, Don Marshall, Ian Cushenan, Albert Langlois.
New York, Andy Bathgate, Bill Gadsby, Red Sullivan, Lou Fontinato, Gump Worsley.
Chicago, Bobby Hull, Ed Litzenberger, Ted Lindsay, Pierre Pilote, Glenn Hall.
Boston, Don McKenney, Fern Flaman, Johnny Bucyk.
Detroit, Warren Godfrey, Forbes Kennedy.

Quite an impressive array of stars. Two of the top three scorers in the league were present, Bathgate was leading scorer with 65 points in 55 games and Litzenberger was only one behind. On top of that, Sullivan, Bucyk, McKenney, Lindsay and Hull were all in the top fifteen point producers to that point in the season.
The All-Stars expectedly beat the Bisons fairly easily by a score of 6-2 in front of 9,368 fans. $25,000 was raised for Dobbyn who stated afterwards," I shall be grateful to them. Words simply cannot express my gratitude or that of my parents."

The goals in the game were scored by Ted Lindsay (2), Bert Olmstead (also had 2 assists), Bathgate, Cullen and Langlois. Bill Dineen notched both goals for Buffalo.

Although prohibited from playing in North American professional leagues, Dobbyn would continue his career in Europe. The very next season he joined Streatham of the British Hockey League and two years later he played in Italy. He eventually returned to North America to play with Waterloo of the semi-pro USHL from which he would finally retire after the 1967/68 season.

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