Friday, March 30, 2012

Bob Decourcy: 1927-2012

For most of us it is only a dream. The mere thought -  of donning an NHL uniform and participating against the best-of-the best - having escaped our grasp due to lack of ability or age.

This, however, wasn't the case for Bob Decourcy who passed away on March 25, 2012 at the age of 84. His dream came true on November 12, 1947, with 14,691 fans in attendance at Madison Square Garden to witness his big night.

New York Rovers
Decourcy started the 1947-48 hockey season with the New York Rovers in the EAHL. Being based in New York City and as part of the Rangers organization, it wasn't unusual for the Rovers to have their goalie on site, at the Garden, to serve as a substitute. This individual would be ready to dress if the goalie for either team, home or visitor, went down due to injury or illness.

This is exactly what happened on November 12, 1947, when the Bruins came calling to face the Rangers. The game started with the usual suspects in goal. At one end was Frank Brimsek for Boston and Chuck Rayner at the opposite end for New York.

After twenty-minutes of action, the Bruins pulled ahead with a 2 to 0 lead. These goals came late in the opening frame and were scored by Murray Henderson and Woody Dumart. At 6:02 of period two, the Rangers got on the board when Bryan Hextall beat Brimsek. The game progressed with neither team lighting up the goal lamp.

Half-way through the the period, Boston was pressing in the Rangers zone. Jack Crawford of the Bruins uncorked a 40-foot shot towards Rayner, who had a maze of bodies screening his view. When the puck reached the net, it hit Rayner under his right eye. As noted in the AP game report, "Rayner fell to the ice in a heap and was carried off to have three stitches taken in the wound."

One can only imagine the thoughts running through Bob Decourcy's mind when he was summoned to replace Rayner. His dream of playing in a National Hockey League contest was about to come true, but at the same time he was going in cold with the likes of Milt Schmidt and company ready to pounce on him.

The new Ranger goalie held his ground in the second period, not allowing the puck to get past him and cross the goal line. As the two clubs made their way to the dressing rooms, the Bruins were up by one goal, with a 2 to 1 advantage.

Perhaps, with too much time to think about his situation in the intermission, Decourcy returned to the Rangers cage for period three. At 2:34, Milt Schmidt beat him to make the score 3 to 1. A goal by Buddy O'Connor at 4:30 put the Rangers right back into the contest. At the 9:02 mark, things began unravelling for young Decourcy and his teammates. Following Joe Carveth's goal at 9:02, the visitors fired four more pucks into the New York net.

Reading a news report from the next day provides some insight as to the overwhelming predicament and subsequent pressure Decourcy found himself exposed to. "The rampaging Bruins began firing rubber at Decourcy from all directions," observed AP in their piece.

The final score was Boston-8 and New York-2.

In 1943-44, Bob Decourcy started a three-year run at St. Michael's in Toronto. Each season, he advanced up the hockey ladder -  '43-44 (Midget Majors) / '44-45 (Buzzers) / '45-46 (Majors) - playing in the OHA.

After a stint with the Hamilton Szabos (OHA-Jr.) in 1946-47, Decourcy turned pro with the New York Rovers. He returned to the Rovers following his appearance with the Rangers. By the end of the 1947-48 season, Decourcy was playing goal for the St. Paul Saints in the USHL.

His minor-league career came to a close in 1949-50 after playing in several USHL towns, including Kansas City, Omaha and a return visit to St. Paul.

In 1950-51, he returned to where it all began, at St. Michael's, to play senior hockey with the Monarchs. This marked the end of his time between the pipes.

Robert Phillip Decourcy was born on June 12, 1927 in Toronto, Ontario. He passed away on March 25, 2012 in Alliston, Ontario.

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