November 18, 2009

Stan Gilbertson

Stan Gilbertson was a fine junior and minor league player who benefitted from NHL expansion in the 1970s. With more NHL teams and more NHL jobs, Gilbertson finally caught on with the California Golden Seals in the first half of the decade

Stan had a very good rookie season for the weak Seals team. He had 16 goals and 16 assists in 78 games (71-72). He played the entire 1972-73 and 73-74 seasons there as well. In 73-74 he scored 18 goals and 30 points.

On November 11, 1974 he was traded to St.Louis where he only played 22 games before being traded again to Washington on February 10, 1975. Stan finished the season in Washington with 18 points in 25 games.

He had a fine start of the 1975-76 season when he had 27 points in 31 games for Washington before being shipped to Pittsburgh on December 16, 1975. His 26 goals in 75-76 was a career high.

He played one more season for Pittsburgh before his career suddenly was over. During the summer of 1977 he was driving his jeep near Pittsburgh in Rostraver, PA to pick up a pair of skates when it overturned in a dangerous curve and pinned his right leg. Stan recalled the moment:

"I was driving a teammates jeep. Coming around a sharp curve, I came on a car coming at me in my lane. Swerving to the right, I ran off the road, rolled over, and wound up upside down, half over a narrow railroad bridge, hanging half out of the car, head down. It was later measured at 13 feet to the ground and if the car had toppled down on top of me I would have been crushed. I freed myself and fell to the ground, but I knew I was badly hurt. My leg hurt bad and I was a bloody mess. But I don't think they knew knew how bad I was hurt. After they got to me,they took me to this little hospital. When I asked to be transferred to a bigger hospital in Pittsburgh,i t took 45 minutes to take me there before they even put me on an operating table. They found the nerves in the leg were ruined and they had to amputate. As an anesthetic they chilled my body. It's called hypothermia. But my body heated up to 104 degrees during surgery and I darn near died. They told me that two out of three in that situation do. At first they took off my leg below the knee, but the stump didn't heal right and they had to take off more at the knee. That was bad because an artificial leg works better with the use of the knee. But I was lucky to have any left leg at all."

At 32 his hockey career was over. Stan's strong mentality prevented him from feeling any pity about his situation. Although Stan lost a leg in the car accident he said that he felt lucky because he saw many people in the hospital where he was that were in a far worse condition than he was. He quickly moved on with his life and went on to get a degree ín the real estate business.

Stan was always an outspoken individual who wasn't afraid to speak up and he missed a lot of curfews as a player. He wasn't the greatest skater, hardest hitter or had the best shot but he had a great desire to become a professional hockey player. A goal that he achieved.

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