February 27, 2016

Andy Bathgate Passes Away

Andy Bathgate is one of the NHL's greatest players ever to grace a sheet of NHL ice, yet it is amazing that he even played hockey after suffering a horrific injury in juniors.

In 1951, while playing with the Guelph Juniors, he received a check that severely damaged his left knee. A steel plate was fixed beneath the kneecap yet it plagued him throughout his career. Despite this, he missed only five games in more than eleven seasons with the New York Rangers.

Even though this undoubtedly limited Bathgate's play, his immense talent prevailed. Bathgate was named twice to the NHL's first and twice to the second All-Star teams. He undoubtedly would have made it more times except that his principal rivals were Gordie Howe, Boom Geoffrion and Maurice Richard.

Andy was never much of a backchecker or a physical player, but when he had the puck there were none better. He could weave his way through a team single-handedly, and possessed one of the hardest shots ever witnessed

Bathgate enjoyed his greatest season in 1958-59 when he scored 40 goals and 88 points and won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP. In 1961-62 he tied Bobby Hull for the league lead in scoring, though Hull got the Art Ross trophy because he scored more goals.

Bathgate was a less charismatic version of Hull. He was a smooth skater and a deft puckhandler, but he too was known for his heavy shot. In fact some say it was Bathgate, not Hull or Geoffrion who perfected the slap shot. Regardless, his shot was feared around the league. It was his shot that hit Montreal goalie Jacques Plante in the face and saw witness to the birth of the goalie mask in the National Hockey League.

Being the first true hockey superstar since the days of Frank Boucher and brothers Bill and Bun Cook, Bathgate was the toast of Manhattan. He was the first Rangers player ever to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. His penalty shot goal against Detroit on March 14th, 1962 that all but assured the Rangers of a playoff spot is still talked about by the old time hockey fans in the city.

Andy was traded to Toronto in 1963-64. It is in Toronto that Andy earned his only Stanley Cup ring. He was later acquired by Detroit, then by Pittsburgh in the 1967 expansion draft.

In total, Handy Andy Bathgate played in 1069 games, scoring 349 goals and 973 points. He was included in Hockey's Hall of Fame in 1978. He briefly played and coach in Switzerland and the WHA following retirement from the National League.

Bathgate stayed in Southern, Ontario upon his departure from the ice. His new passion became golf, and he ran a golf facility in Mississauga for years.

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