Gump had Hall of Fame sense of humour

DAVID LANGFORD -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

Long before there ever was a movie titled Forrest Gump, we in Canada had our own Gump.

At least we did until Friday.

Lorne (Gump) Worsley, he of the 21 years as a goalie in the National Hockey League, died Friday at his home at the age of 77. He had suffered a heart attack last Monday.

Worsley was a Hall of Fame goalie with a Hall of Fame sense of humour.

Worsley, at five-foot-seven, began his NHL career in 1952-53 with the New York Rangers and finished his career with the Minnesota North Stars in 1973-74 -- playing only his final six games with a mask.

"He was a terrific goaltender," former North Stars teammate Lou Nanne said. "If I could pick any goalie to win a big game, it would be Gump.

"He was one of the first real characters in the NHL," Nanne said. "He had a lot of personality and really showed the human side of the game. He didn't look like an athlete and smoked like a chimney between periods, but he was terrific when he put the pads on."

He was given the Gump nickname as a child because his hair stuck up like Andy Gump, the comic strip character.

But his sense of humour was legendary. Many think fondly of a between-periods interview with Gump and Eddie Shack, alongside host Ward Cornell, as one of the funniest moments ever on Hockey Night in Canada.

As they say, there are a million stories.

The Gumper regularly attended the Canadian Airlines Golf Classic in Digby, N.S. He loved his golf and he loved to have a good time. The three-day event offered plenty of each.

One year in the mid-'90s, the legendary Canadian pianist Hagood Hardy, also a regular at this tournament, was spotted walking through the lobby at the resort at about 6 a.m., lugging a blanket over his shoulder.

Queried about this strange site, Hardy simply said: "Gump snores too much."

The anecdote about the unlikely roommates at the golf tournament was relayed soon after in the sports pages of the the Globe and Mail. One year later at the same tournament, Hardy said he still had the clipped column on his refrigerator at home.

"People talked more about the little item than any music review the Globe has ever done on me," Hardy said, with a big laugh.

A few minutes later, Hardy bumped into his former roommate.

"You ---hole, Hagood. I'm still getting heat from my daughters about that," Gump said, in mock anger.

That same year, Gump was being congratulated for his windfall from the NHL. In the long pension battle initiated by ex-Leaf Carl Brewer, the NHL players got retroactive lump sums. Gump, at more than $200,000, was second only to Gordie Howe.

Meanwhile, as a celebrity in the tournament each year, Gump would get stopped by other celebs and asked for his autograph. The late actor Al Waxman, for one, asked the Gumper for his autograph. Gump returned the "favour" and asked Al for his.

On the course, Gump was getting the jabs as much he was giving them out. After playing 18 holes with former Londoner Ian Watson, and getting grief all the way, Gump turned and said with a smile:

"Look, you guys, if you don't respect me as a celebrity, can't you at least respect me for my age?"

And finally, this from former Chicago Blackhawks' defenceman and London native Doug Jarrett:

In a 2001 interview with Free Press sports columnist Jim Kernaghan, Jarrett recalled a game against Minnesota, with Worsley in net. Chicago had the game well in hand in the third when Bobby Hull wound up with one his patented slapshots.

"Gumper was pretty short, his head wasn't much above the bar. Over the blue line, Bobby winds up . . . and Gumper skates right out of the net and into the corner.

"It rang off the crossbar and in and Gumper skates out of the corner, looks at Bobby and taps his head with his forefinger as if to say, 'I'm not crazy.' "

Crazy? Absolutely not. Talented? Absolutely.

Will he be missed? You bet.

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LORNE (GUMP) WORSLEY

- Began career in 1952-53 and was named rookie of the year with New York Rangers.

- Won four Stanley Cups with his hometown Montreal Canadiens (1961, 1966, 1968 and 1969).

- Had a 2.88 goals-against average and 43 shutouts in 861 regular-season games.

- Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in 1980.

- Acquired by Montreal from the Rangers in a 1963 trade that sent fellow Hall of Fame goalie Jacques Plante to New York.

- Won the Vezina Trophy in 1966 and 1968 as the NHL's top goalie.

- Was a first-team all-star in 1968 and played in the all-star game in 1961, '62, '65 and '72.


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