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March 10, 2016

Bill Gadsby

Name the greatest player never to win a Stanley Cup. Marcel Dionne, Gilbert Perreault, Brad Park, Mike Gartner. You could probably make one hell of an all star team of players who never sipped champagne from Lord Stanley's Mug, and Bill Gadsby would be the captain.

Bill almost never got to play in the NHL. When he was only 12 years old , Bill and his mother were aboard the Athenia, returning from England at the outbreak of World War II. The ship was torpedoed and they spent five hours in the Atlantic before being rescued. Bill however went on to play his junior hockey in Edmonton and signed his first pro contract with the Blackhawks. But before he made the jump to the parent club, he was initially sent to Kansas City of the minor leagues for seasoning.

But Bill didn't stay there too long. After 12 games in Kansas City, he was promoted to the Hawks early in the '46-47 campaign. In his first game with Chicago, Bill was cut for 12 stitches. Bill got used to stitches over the years as he took approximately 600 stitches due to high sticks and flying pucks. He earned the nickname "Scarface II" (team-mate Ted Lindsay was, of course, Scarface I).

Some of Bill's injuries included:

- Two broken legs.
- Two shoulder separations.
- Broke his nose nine times.
- Countless charley horses.
- Broken ribs.
- Four broken toes.
- Eleven broken thumbs.
- Two slight concussions.
- A cracked cheekbone.

Bill remembered each and everyone of his injuries, and how long they kept him out. He once played with a broken ankle and except for the broken legs and one shoulder separation, in which the bone protruded through the skin, he wasn't out long.

"The worst (injury), though, was when I broke my nose -- the inside of the nose," Bill said. " I mean, it was torn right up the middle, in both nostrils, and I thought I was going to faint from the pain. We were on the way to play Montreal, and before we got on the train, the doctors put cotton in my nostrils and gave me a couple of shots.

"I played the next night, and Rocket Richard got me in the corner and hit me smack on the nose with his elbow. I mean, everything spurted out.

"My nose was tore wide open again, and I never knew what pain was until this moment. I couldn't see a thing. There were too many tears in my eyes."

Bill was a rare bright spot on some pretty bad Chicago teams from 1946 to 1955. He was the Hawks top blueliner and an effective leader. In 1952, Bill was captain of the Blackhawks when he was struck by polio during training camp. He was able to fight off the ailment and he even rejoined the team and played the entire year with Chicago. After that show of commitment, Bill was named as the Hawks' team captain.

Bill played with the Blackhawks for eight full seasons, the last two of which he was named to the second All Star team. But in 1954-55, after 18 games with the Hawks, he was traded to the New York Rangers with Pete Conacher for Al Stanley, Nick Mickoski and Rich Lamoureux.. He finished that year with the Rangers. The trade proved to be a blessing for Bill who would excel with a better team. In his second season with the Rangers he was a First Team All Star as he posted career high numbers with 51 points. In all he played six seasons in New York before another trade took him to the Red Wings for the 1961-62 season.

Bill was initially packaged up with Eddie Shack for Red Kelly, but when Kelly refused to report to New York his rights were given back to New York. A year later, he was traded to Detroit for Les Hunt.

Bill played his last five seasons with the Wings before retiring after the 1965-66 season. He played more of a defensive role in his final days, but he didn't care as he finally had a chance to play with a good team. The Wings went to the Cup finals in 3 of Bill's 5 years, though they never did capture the Cup.

He left the NHL with career totals of 130 goals, 438 assists and 568 points in 1,248 regular season games while adding 27 points in 67 playoff contests. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970.

Nobody played harder for the than Bill. He took on everyone who came into his zone, hurled his body in front of flying pucks, and battled in the corners, in front of the net and, sometimes, even in the stands when the fans got out of line.

Following his NHL career, Bill returned to coach the Wings for the 1968-69 season and for two games of the 1969-70 season when he was suddenly dismissed. He then entered the construction business before retiring in 1986.

Today he is a co-owner of Gadsby Golf Center in Howell. It is a practice golf facility offering golf accessories and a miniature putt-putt course for the whole family.

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