Friday, February 10, 2012

A Cheer for Andy

It is always a great occasion when an Original Six player is recognized  for his contributions to the game.

On February 7, 2012, came word that Andy Bathgate is going to be inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place in September at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto.

Andy Bathgate scored his first National Hockey League goal in a contest against the Chicago Black Hawks at Madison Square Garden on November 18, 1953. A crowd of 6,176 Ranger fans watched as the new addition to New York's line-up fired his first of 349 career goals in the NHL.

The Rangers summoned the 21-year-old rookie a week earlier from the Vancouver Canucks of the Western Hockey League. His first stint with the big league club came in 1952-53, when Bathgate skated in 18 games.

 Bathgate's goal came late in the opening period at 17:21 when he beat Chicago goalie Al Rollins. Gaining assists on the goal were Ron Murphy and Camille Henry.

Going into the contest, New York coach Frank Boucher had a harsh assessment of his defensive core. It was his opinion they must "quit loafing or else." The "or else" being incentive for several Ranger defenders to pick-up their game.

Following Bathgate's goal, the Hawks tied the game at one goal apiece in the middle frame. Scoring for the visitors was Murray Costello. His tally came at 8:17 against Johnny Bower in the New York net.

Then, came the opportunity for New York's defencemen to chip in on offence. The Rangers gained a 2-1 advantage when Harry Howell scored an unassisted marker at 14:55.

With the drop of the puck to start period three, New York was on the hunt to increase their 2-1 lead. At 8:28, the Rangers did just that when Paul Ronty gave his team a two goal cushion. Contributing an assist was forward Wally Hergesheimer. The other helper went to defenceman Hy Buller.

For the remaining minutes of play, Johnny Bower and his defencemen held Chicago scoreless. Not only did they attend to their defensive responsibilities, but two Ranger rearguards (Howell & Buller) made their way onto the scoring summary.

In addition to gaining two points in the standings with the 3-1 victory, the highlight for the New York faithful was Bathgate's first regular season goal in a Rangers uniform.

When Bathgate was called-up in 1953-54 he found himself playing on a line with Paul Ronty and Wally Hergesheimer. He played left-wing and a New York media report referred to him as being "smart and he has good size."

Over most of his 1,069 NHL games, Bathgate patrolled the right-wing position for New York, Toronto, Detroit and Pittsburgh. He was awarded the Hart Trophy in 1959 as the NHL's most valuable player. He captured a Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1964. His winning-goal in game seven of the final came against Red Wing goalie Terry Sawchuk. Bathgate became an honoured member of the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.

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