Baun his old self again

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

He was one of the toughest hombres to ever don skates.

After all, Bobby Baun did score that legendary overtime goal to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a victory over Detroit in the sixth game of the 1964 NHL Stanley Cup final -- despite a broken leg. Then he played the seventh game. The defenceman also played the last five of his 17 years with a broken neck he didn't know he had until another fall ended his career.

So, it was surprising that he would silently retreat into his own home, afraid to face the public just because his hearing had deteriorated so rapidly.

"When you're as outgoing as I was, you back yourself into a corner," Baun said from his Pickering, Ont., home earlier this week. "People were giving me hell all of the time because they were asking me questions and I wasn't answering them. And a lot of people think you're stupid.

"My grandchildren wouldn't talk to me because I wouldn't talk back to them. In restaurants, I would be saying yes when I should have been saying no."

So, he finally got help. Baun now uses a digital, high-definition hearing device that has re-opened his world.

"It was like night and day," said Baun, who will be speaking at a hearing-awareness seminar on behalf of Widex Canada at the Inn at the Forks this morning at 10 o'clock. "My whole message is, 'Please get your ears tested.' It's such a shame to go through life not being able to enjoy yourself because of a problem you can rectify."

Now, Baun can bask in the glow of re-telling the story behind that famous OT goal again.

"They took me off the ice on a stretcher and wanted to take me to the hospital but I wouldn't go," he recalled. "They taped me up and froze it and I went back out there and scored at 1:42. I call it a triple flutter-blast with a follow-up blooper that went in off (Bill) Gadsby's stick past (Terry) Sawchuk.

"I found out it (fibula) was fractured after the game but I didn't miss the party. The doctors said it was a clean break and wouldn't hurt me forever."

Baun then did not give the doctors a chance to advise him to sit out the next match because he hid on a friend's farm, where no one could find him, for a few days.

"When I went back, I was afraid they wouldn't let me play," he said. "I just said, 'I'm ready to go,' and they gave me a needle again to freeze it, but that didn't last very long. So, I had to go back into the dressing room to get a needle every 10 minutes during that game."

Toronto won easily.

"I always had a high pain tolerance," said Baun, now 68. "I had broken my neck in 1967, then played with it for five years because I didn't know I had broken it until I broke it again."

Baun spent those years chewing on 222s (painkillers) until he landed on his helmet-less head after a bodycheck. He wouldn't let teammates touch him because he knew something was wrong.

"If the fluid in my spinal column had moved three-quarters of an inch, I would have been paralyzed," he said. "After that, they told me I was finished. Two years later, I had it (vertebrae) fused."


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