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.
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.
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?
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.