October 04, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Mario Gosselin

This is Mario Gosselin of Thetford Mines, Quebec.

When he broke into the NHL in 1984 it was quite the story. Back at the Sarajevo Olympic games in 1984 all of Canada's Olympic hopes rested the young goalie. A nation's hopes rested on his thin shoulders.

Back then Canada was forced to use true amateur hockey players against the virtual professionals from Russia and other European countries when came to major international tournaments, especially the Olympics. This was a definite sore spot with Canadians.

The acrobatic goalie ended up front and center in the amateur status debate just prior to the Olympics. Because he and teammates Mark Morrison, Don Dietrich and Dan Wood all had signed professional contracts, with Morrison and Dietrich having played some NHL games. The IIHF allowed them to play so long as they played fewer than 10 career games in the NHL.

The Finns and Americans argued against the decision, waiting until just before the Olympics to raise the controversy. The IOC reviewed the decisions and forced Canada to drop Morrison and Dietrech, as well as some Italian and Austrian players, from the Olympics.

The Americans wanted Gosselin, Canada's young goaltending star, ruled ineligible, too. He was a junior star with the Shawinigan Cataractes before committing to the old Canadian National team and the Olympic program. Because they had never played in the NHL the IOC allowed Gosselin and Wood to play in the games.

Distracted by the controversy, Canada would have a disappointing tournament, finishing out of the medals in 4th place.

Not that you could blame the goalie they called "Goose." Team Canada offered him no support, failing to score a goal in the final three games of the Olympics including the bronze medal game.

"We tried hard, but we tried in the wrong way. We wanted to win the game in the first minute, we wanted to win as quickly as possible, we wanted too much to win," said a disappointed Gosselin.

Shortly after the Olympics Gosselin found himself in yet another controversy. He mouthed off about Canadian coach Dave King  saying that King had shown a bias against both goaltenders and Quebecers, going as far as to say he would advise future Quebecois hockey stars to avoid King's program.

All of this made Gosselin a household name in Canada, which made his NHL debut all the more fascinating. Drafted 55th overall by the Quebec Nordiques back in 1982, Gosselin joined Les Nords right after Olympics. He looked good in his three game trial, winning two while losing none, and pitching a shutout in his very first game to boot.

The Nordiques were a strong team in the 1980s, but they could never get by their arch rivals, the Canadiens from Montreal. For all their fire power up front, the Nordiques never could find a goaltender who could lead them out of the Adams division come playoff time.

Perhaps unrealistic expectations were immediately placed upon Gosselin for his first full season. The Nordiques opted to bring him along slowly, splitting the puck stopping duties with veteran Dan Bouchard.

Over the course of the next five years Gosselin would battle for net time, never able to fully establish himself as the goalie many had hoped for. He was inconsistent, great some games but below average a week later. Take 1986 for example. He was good enough to be picked to participate in the mid-season all star game. In the same season he saw his first time in the minor leagues.

He was never able to put it together for any length of time. His play seemed to wilt with heavier work loads. It probably did not help that coach Michel Bergeron was impatient with his goaltenders and did not handle Gosselin well.

That being said, he was given the net for both the 1985 and 1987 playoffs. He led the Nordiques to 16 wins and three series victories.

One of the victories was a classic victory over Montreal. Gosselin promised victory in the series and he played well. Peter Stastny cemented the victory with an overtime goal in game 7. It would prove to be the Nordiques greatest moment in the NHL.

The team began falling on hard times by the 1980s, and players were leaving. Gosselin was one of the first to leave, signing with the Los Angeles Kings in the summer of 1989. It promised to be an exciting time in California, as Wayne Gretzky arrived the season earlier. Gosselin was probably more excited to sign with the Kings because their general manager, former goaltending great Rogie Vachon, was his boyhood idol.

Unfortunately Gosselin never found his game in LA. He won just 7 of his 26 appearances. He would soon be banished to the minor leagues.

He resurfaced with the Hartford Whalers a couple of years later, only to suffer what would prove to be a career ending back injury.

In ten NHL seasons, Goose Gosselin posted a career 91-107-14 record and a 3.74 GAA. In 32 post-season appearances Gosselin was 16-15 with a GAA of 3.27.

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