Gump Worsley Had the Name and Face for Hockey

Drop the puck!

That means something in certain sections of our world.

It’s a phase that rolls off the tongue of English-speaking ice hockey fans. I can’t say I’m fluent in the Russian or Scandinavian equivalents. Nor the French, even though a good portion of my neighbors to the north might shout “déposer la rondelle!” (I’m trusting Google translator to capture the nuance) when the skating zebras are too slow on the draw when the players are waiting for them to toss the hard rubber sphere from their hand to the ice so they can swat their sticks, strategize and generally begin the organized mayhem mixed with artistic beauty that is their sport.

No mask needed. (From Wikipedia)

No mask needed. (From Wikipedia)

Which brings me to a goalie from the past, a man who was called by a funny name made famous decades later by a fictional savant who did many things well in a movie, not one of them playing hockey.

Gump Worsley was his name. Lorne John “Gump” Worsley, to be most formal, actually.

Stopping pucks was his specialty, in a long and pretty spectacular National Hockey League career that began in 1952 with the New York Rangers and ended in 1974 with the Minnesota North Stars. Yes, born in 1929 in Montreal, Worsley lasted 22 years in the NHL — in the days when the fellows who blocked pucks for a living did so manly and bare-faced, without a sliver of those face masks the fellows wear these days.

The puck stops here, said Gump Worsley. (Getty Images)

The puck stops here, said Gump Worsley. (Getty Images)

In fact, he was the second-to-last goalie in the league to put that vital protective gear. Asked why, he told the reporter: “My face is my mask.”

I remember seeing Gump play with a great amount of flair when I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn, before two goalies named Eddie Giacomin and Gilles Villemure split duties for the Broadway Blueshirts, as the denizens of Madison Square Garden were called.

The eccentric Worsley was also known for his fear of flying, a trait that became more of a liability as the league expanded and road trips increasingly moved from land to air. In fact, in 1968, he famously broke down after a flight from Montreal to Chicago, and had to miss playing time to receive psychiatric treatment.

But he surely was beloved, up until his death of a heart attack in 2007 at the age of 77.

Two Canadian indie rock bands have recorded songs in his honor. Huevos Rancheros put out Gump Worsley’s Lament, and The Weakerthans released Elegy for Gump Worsley And Canadian band Sons of Freedom named an album Gump after Worsley.

So how did Lorne become Gump?

Inspiration for a nickhame. (From Wikipedia)

Inspiration for a nickhame. (From Wikipedia)

According to Wikipedia: ” ‘Gump’ was given his nickname because friends thought he looked like comic-strip character Andy Gump.’ ”

Life wasn’t exactly like a box of chocolates, but not bad for this Gump. Not bad at all.

Here’s the source for Gump Worsley’s biography and photos.

Here’s the source for the photo of Sidney Smith’s comic The Gumps.

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About markbialczak

Mark Bialczak is a veteran journalist. He started his blog, markbialczak.com, in February, 2013, to write about music, entertainment, sports and life.
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32 Responses to Gump Worsley Had the Name and Face for Hockey

  1. ksbeth says:

    what a perfect name for a mask-less goalie.

  2. wdydfae says:

    “. . . a stunning triple play . . . Mark triumphs on the ice again . . .”

    “. . . we haven’t had a half-court shot like this since Mark went to the mat for Matz . . .”

    “. . . Mark shatters all the records with this net whacking dropkick of a post . . .”

  3. 22 years with no mask – pretty incredible.

  4. kerbey says:

    Hard to reconcile a butch John Wayne maskless hockey dude with his fear of falling out of the sky. All that stress must have given him the mortal heart attack. I can’t say as I’ve ever heard of him or the Andy Gump comic. Another testimony to all the things that fade away with new generations, only to be resurrected on WordPress! BTW, “Lorne” is also an odd name if you ask me. It’s like Lauren but shoving the syllables together. The only other famous Lorne is Lorne Michaels, who is actually Lorne LIPOWITZ!

  5. wdydfae says:

    With a somewhat milder aversion to flying, and with all relevant caveats appended, it means something that I can say I have more physical courage than a famous hockey player.

    I mean, hey. How many times in life do I get to say that? Let me have my little moment here.

  6. Arto says:

    “My face is my mask.” That’s pretty badass. That’s like the big line in a dramatic close-up in the Gump Worsley Story movie trailer.

  7. Pingback: Lorne Greene | The Blog of Funny Names

  8. Rio says:

    It is also pretty dumb in the context of hockey. I could see if you were a professional poker player maybe… No, Gump actually, your face is your face, sad to say.

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