Boy Wonder Gabe Pankhurst must be one of the youngest hockey players ever to play for his country's national team.
At the age of 14 Pankhurst played for England's national team in 1947. The record shows he played in 2 games, one of which was a 3-3 tie against Sweden.
Just how did he make the team?
Firstly, a bit of background. While some records show Pankhurst being born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the December 10th 1947 issue of The Hockey News says he was born in Maidstone, England. He moved to Winnipeg at the age of 7 to escape World War II. His obituary suggests he was born in Winnipeg but his birth parents gave him up and he was adopted soon thereafter.
Regardless, it was in Manitoba that he "first came into prominence as a puck chaser" and became a "hockey natural."
In 1947 it seems he returned to England on a family visit as a 14 year old who stood 5'10" tall and weighed 170lbs, according to THN. "A broth boy for a youngster not quite 15 years old," they wrote. He was toying with other youth at school hockey, and the small hockey community noticed.
Pankhurst was hanging around the Wembley rink when a national team player by the name of Doug Wilson had to miss the game against Sweden due to a thigh strain. Scrambling to replace him, the national team asked the chubby faced schoolboy to dress for the game.
Pankhurst was not expecting to see much ice. But he reportedly played seven minutes in the second period, lining up on left wing. THN wrote that he "showed plenty of dash and sparkle."
The article goes on to predict Pankhurst could become the most outstanding player in British hockey history, of course. But it turns out Pankhurst returned to Manitoba shortly thereafter. Statistical records show him playing junior hockey with the Winnipeg/St. Boniface Canadiens in the early 1950s, skating alongside the likes of Len Thornson and Ab McDonald, and being coached by Bryan Hextall. He later played senior hockey in Minnedosa, again being coached by Hextall.
Pankhurst never did return to the British national team or for his beloved Montreal Canadiens. Instead he ended up in the hotel business. He loved golf and the Rotary Club.
Gord Pankhurst died of dementia in 2011.