By Sam Cortes, Communications Coordinator
Leading by example was one of many strong qualities Andy Bathgate had as a hockey player.
Excelling at any level he played at, Bathgate eventually reached the pinnacle of hockey: the NHL.
There, his impact was not just measured in points, but for what he did for the league – accidental or not.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1932, Andy played minor hockey in the West Kildonan area. He attributes his early success to Manitoba Sports Hall of Famer, Vince Leah, after his father had passed away when he was only 13 years old.
This is where he would play over the next several years, before moving on to new and exciting opportunities.
Following in his brother Frank’s footsteps, Andy played junior for the Guelph Biltmores at the age of 17. He stayed there for the next couple of years, helping them win the 1951-52 Memorial Cup Championship, the crown jewel of junior hockey in Canada.
The Big Move
Playing at Guelph led to Andy being discovered by the New York Rangers (the club that sponsored the Biltmores). He was subsequently brought up to play with the team following the Memorial Cup win.
He played 18 games with the New York Rangers that year and spent the rest of his time with the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL (not to be confused with today’s Vancouver Canucks).
He became a regular with the New York Rangers by the 1954-55 season and started contributing right away.
In his first full season, he potted 20 goals and 20 assists, and steadily improved from there. He became a popular figure in New York, eventually becoming their captain.
His best statistical year came in 1958-59 when he went on to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player, totalling 88 points.
A Leaf History
His 10 seasons with the Rangers were spent with the team toiling in mediocrity over and over again.
This suddenly changed, though, when Andy was traded to the Maple Leafs, helping them win the Stanley Cup in the 1963-64 season.
Leafs fans should really give him a lot of credit for this as he scored the winning goal in the deciding game seven. Scoring a game seven Stanley Cup-winning goal is quite an accomplishment in any lifetime, but Andy is known for even more than that.
One Powerful Slap Shot
I’m sure everyone and their dog remembers Jacques Plante and how he was the one who got the ball rolling with goalie’s wearing masks in the NHL.
As the story goes, he was hit in the face with the puck and needed stitches. When he came back to the ice, he had a mask covering his face.
What you might not remember is the player who shot the puck into his face.
That was none other than Andy Bathgate, known for having a powerful slap shot and an even sharper tongue.
During his playing days, spearing had become a major problem in hockey. All kinds of excuses were thrown out as to why it was happening, with one coach calling it a defensive tactic against interference.
It never sat well with Andy. So, he wrote an article that was published in True Magazine, warning that spearing would eventually kill someone.
He even called out some of the sport’s more popular names, like Ted Lindsay and Gordie Howe, for their role in it.
This got the attention of the NHL and Andy was fined $,1000. In those days, this was a lot of money.
He was never really given credit for it, but at the end of the year, there was a rule change on spearing…clearly for the betterment of hockey and the safety of the players.
Legends Never Die
These last two anecdotes did not define Andy’s career, but are an important part of history that showcase his legacy and importance to the NHL and hockey.
Overall, he produced 973 points in 1,069 games played with New York, Toronto, Detroit, and Pittsburgh, and was an NHL all-star twice.
Known as one of the greatest players in New York Ranger history, they finally retired his #9 jersey in 2009.