In a time when hockey goalies were quirky fat disgusting slobs and half manimal orges there was Gump Worsley, refusing to break the stereotype by being equal parts both. A man who was once accused by Rangers’ coach Phil Watson of having a beer belly, only to reply, “Just goes to show you what he knows. I only drink Johnnie Walker Red.” Loveable and goonish, understanding fans love for Worsley is understanding the true connection between hockey and its fans. Among his many quirks was his fear of flying which lead to a “mental breakdown” that ended with him retiring. According to his bio:
“Worsley was also well known for his fear of flying. He suffered a nervous breakdown in the 1968–69 season after a rough flight from Montreal’s Dorval Airport to Chicago on November 25 en route to Los Angeles, and received psychiatric treatment and missed action as a result. It is said that when he came out of retirement to play for the North Stars he was assured that, as Minnesota was in the central part of the continent, the team traveled less than any other in the league.”
Here is a brief history of Worsley
Worsley died in 2007 leaving behind a legacy as one of hockey’s most legendary goalies, helping to define the position in a time when the sport was still figuring itself out. From his obituary:
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.
Here is some awesome video of Gump Worsley in his final game.