This is the seventh in a series of examinations of legends related to Hockey and whether they are true or false.
HOCKEY LEGEND: Bruce Gamble died during an Old Timer’s Game.
Bruce Gamble was a hockey goalie who was best known for his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom he played for from 1966-67 until the middle of the 1969-70 season.
During that season, he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Bernie Parent.
He would play until the 1972 season for the Flyers before retiring at the age of 34 because of heart problems. He actually had his first heart attack after a Flyers game (the onset of the heart attack occurred during the game!).
Twelve years later, Gamble was playing with an “Old Timers team,” the Niagara Falls Flames, when he experienced chest pains after a night practice. He was rushed to the hospital where he died of a heart attack at the age of 46.
It is often reported, telephone game style, as him dying while playing in an Old Timers Game.
Here’s a Flyers site saying as much:
In September, Gamble officially announced his retirement as a player and accepted a position with the organization as a scout in the Toronto area. Gamble died at the age of 43 during an old-timers game played December 30, 1982.
By the way, the date of his death is wrong in MANY places – lots of places say 1982, but he actually died in 1984.
HOCKEY LEGEND: An NHL team drafted a fake player as a joke.
George “Punch” Imlach was not someone you would typically think of as a funny guy.
As the General Manager and Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Imlach was very successful, but he was also very hard nosed.
After being let go by the Leafs (after winning three Stanley Cups with them during the 1960s), Imlach became the General Manager and Head Coach of the expansion NHL team, the Buffalo Sabres.
Here he is with some of his Sabre players…
After suffering a heart attack in 1972, Imlach stepped down as coach but remained General Manager.
In the 1974 NHL Entry Draft, Imlach showed off his funny side (or at least his petty side). At the time, the NHL was worried about the rival league, the World Hockey Association, so they decided to do the Entry Draft over the telephone, so as to not allow the WHA to know what they were doing (I don’t precisely get the logic in that, but hey, whatever). As you might imagine, this could get pretty darn tedious, so in a joking bit of rebellion, Imlach decided to just MAKE UP a draft pick.
So with the 183rd pick of the NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres selected Taro Tsujimoto of the Japanese Hockey League’s Tokyo Katanas (Katanas and Sabres, of course, are both swords). Taro Tsujimoto, naturally enough, did not exist.
Imlach just picked a name out of the phone book.
The League was not amused when they found out a week or so later, and the pick was wiped from the books and is officially listed as an “invalid pick.”
Taro Tsujimoto, of course, has become a bit of a cult icon in Buffalo, sort of like an invisible mascot!
HOCKEY LEGEND: A former #1 overall draft pick had one of the worst endings of a game any player could hope to have during his last year in the NHL.
Patrik Štefan had a decent enough career in the NHL. He played from 1999-2007.
However, that’s perhaps a bit of a disappointment for a guy who was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers #1 overall in the 1999 NHL Draft.
Then again, it wasn’t like he was THAT hyped – it just wasn’t a particularly top-heavy draft. He was still the consensus pick for #1.
In any event, after a number of years for the Thrashers, Štefanwas traded to the Dallas Stars in 2006.
The following year, Štefan’s LAST in the NHL, Štefan had one of the most unforgettably bad endings to a hockey game that any player could ever have.
On January 4, 2007, the Dallas Stars were visiting the Edmonton Oilers and held a 5-4 lead with 16 seconds left. The Oilers had pulled their goalie to facilitate an extra attacker on the ice.
However, with just under 16 seconds left, Štefan stole a pass as the Oilers made their attempt to charge…
He then skated toward the empty Oiler net, completely unheeded (with less than 13 seconds to go)…
He goes to tap in the easy empty netter, securing the victory for his team…
when he MISSES the empty net!!!
As Oilers race after him, he then FALLS DOWN!!!
The puck is taken from him upon his fall and passed up ice quickly…
and after a beautiful pass…
and a great move, the game is tied by Aleš Hemský with under 3 seconds to go!!!
The Stars eventually won the game in a shootout, but still, the moment is probably best summed up by TV commentator Ray Ferraro, who said after the play”That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen… Patrik Štefan, you should be embarrassed for what you just did; that does not belong in the National Hockey League!”
And by the end of the season, he no longer WAS in the National Hockey League.
He’s a player agent now in California.
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org