Hall of Fame hockey goalie Lorne "Gump" Worsley died yesterday, he was 77. Actually I thought he was already dead so I guess you can say he was ahead of the game.
Based solely on his nickname "Gump," I liked Worsley when I fanatically followed the NHL in the 60's and 70's. As I got older, I learned of his legendary drinking escapades, that he was fat and smoked like a chimney between periods of the games he played. To prove how strange I am, all of that served to make Gump more interesting. My fondness for him is proven by my "tongue-in-cheek" use of the name Dr. Worsley in my novel.
But this piece isn't really about Gump. Instead, its about Lon Nanne, a former NHL player and current NHL executive. Nanne made some stupid comments in eulogizing Worsley. That's bad enough, but I draw the line when he insulted one of my people, Tom "Red-Light" Kelly.
Lou Nanne in an article that appeared at NHL.COM said of Worsley's career, "There's nobody (Worsley) I'd rather have to win one game."
Yes, it's true that Gump is a Hall-of-Famer and his name appears on four Stanley Cups. He indeed won the Rookie-of-the-Year, was an All-Star several times and won the Vezina Trophy twice. But the article with Nanne's comments went on to say that Worsley had a far from remarkable losing record (335-352) AND is in fact the NHL record holder with those 352 career loses.
So Nanne, in naming Gump as his number-one choice to win one (important) game, is at best gratuitous . But it shouldn't be too startling when you compare it to what Nanne said while General Manager of the Minnesota North Stars (the present day Dallas Stars) to "Red-Light" Kelly a former student of mine and current coworker.
On the verge of becoming an NHLer, Kelly's career was cut short by a crippling knee injury. It happened during an exhibition game against the Boston Bruins.; "Red-Light" got taken-out with a vicious and illegal check from behind. In agonizing pain, he was carted off the ice. In the locker room, the trainer recognizing Kelly's pain, began cutting the laces off the heavy shin pads.
When Lou Nanne saw this he threateningly told the trainer, "Do you have idea how much those pads cost...untie them!"
Kelly immediately knew he was nothing more than a piece of meat. And even though he didn't realize at that moment that his hockey career was over...he knew Nanne was a moron. And just in case Kelly has forgotten...and somehow I don't think he has, I'll show him the computer article at work tomorrow.