Bruce Gamble

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For the American historian, see Bruce Gamble (author).
Bruce Gamble
Born (1938-05-24)May 24, 1938
Port Arthur, ON, CAN
Died December 29, 1982(1982-12-29) (aged 44)
Niagara Falls, ON, CAN
Height 5 ft 9 in (175 cm)
Weight 190 lb (86 kg; 13 st 8 lb)
Position Goaltender
Caught Left
Played for New York Rangers
Boston Bruins
Toronto Maple Leafs
Philadelphia Flyers
Playing career 1958–1972

Bruce George Gamble (May 24, 1938 – December 29, 1982) was a professional ice hockey goaltender who played 10 seasons in the NHL between 1962 and 1972, with some years in the minor leagues in between. In the NHL he played 2 games with the New York Rangers, 80 for the Boston Bruins, 210 for the Toronto Maple Leafs and 35 for the Philadelphia Flyers to end his career.

Junior career[edit]

Gamble played 3 seasons with the Port Arthur Bruins of the Thunder Bay Junior A Hockey League between 1953 and 1955. In the 1955–56 season, he backstopped the Port Arthur North Stars to a Memorial Cup berth. The next season he did so again with the Guelph Biltmores of the OHA, and was elected to the 1957 OHA first All-Star team. He made it to the Memorial Cup a third time with the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, the following year.

Professional career and after[edit]

Gamble played his first year as a pro with the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL, and received his first 2-game call-up with the New York Rangers. His performance impressed other NHL teams, and the Boston Bruins chose him in the 1959 Intra-League Draft. After a year with Providence Reds in the AHL, Gamble was the team's starting goalie in 1960–61. During the next 4 seasons he played mainly in the minors (Portland Buckaroos, Kingston Frontenacs and Springfield Indians), tallying 28 games for the Bruins in 1961–62.

Because he refused to go back to the minors for Eddie Shore in 1964–65, the Bruins suspended him from Springfield for the entire season. Gamble got his way the following year by being traded to the Maple Leafs.

For the first few seasons, Gamble was in a back-up role, playing behind Hall of Famers Johnny Bower and Terry Sawchuk. A high point was recording 4 shutouts in a 5-game stretch in March 1966. In 1966–67, the Leafs won the Stanley Cup, and he contributed by playing in 23 regular season games going 5–10–4 with a GAA of 3.39. However, Gamble was sent to the minors to play for the Tulsa Oilers, before the trading deadline. He did not spend the whole season with Toronto, and his name was left off the Stanley Cup. With the loss of Sawchuk in the 1967 NHL expansion draft, Gamble established himself as a solid, workhorse goalie with the Leafs. He had his best years playing in 41 games in 1967–68, 62 in 1968–69 and 52 in 1969–70. He was the MVP of the 1968 NHL All-Star game. The last Leaf goalie to play without a mask, he finally donned one in 1970-71. Gamble, along with a first-round selection (Pierre Plante) in the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft, was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for Bernie Parent and a second-round pick (Rick Kehoe) in the same draft as part of a three-way deal which also involved the Boston Bruins on January 31, 1971. The Leafs also sent Mike Walton to the Bruins who shipped Rick MacLeish and Danny Schock to the Flyers.[1]

Gamble was used primarily to back up Doug Favell with the Flyers to complete that season, appearing in 11 regular season games and 2 playoff games. Gamble began the 1971-72 season as back-up, but as the season wore on began to compete for the #1 role. A run of solid performances by Gamble ended after he suffered a heart attack during a 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on February 8, 1972. Although he fell at one point during the game,[2] he did not complain of problems until afterward, and traveled with the team to Oakland on February 9 in preparation for a game that evening against the California Golden Seals. As his chest pains continued, Gamble was admitted to an Oakland hospital where it was found that he had had a heart attack.[3] Gamble did not play in the NHL again.

Ten years later, Gamble died of another heart attack, hours after a practice session with an "old-timers" hockey team, the Niagara Falls Flames. On December 29, 1982, after a practice session the evening before with the Flames, Gamble woke up with chest pains, and died at a hospital in Niagara Falls, Ontario at the age of 44.[4]

Urban legends regarding Gamble[edit]

Because Gamble suffered both heart attacks after playing or practicing hockey, erroneous accounts have been written that he was taken to a hospital during the 1972 NHL game, or that he "died during an old-timer's game". Neither of Gamble's heart attacks forced him from the ice, although the first happened during the game and the second was diagnosed soon after.


  1. ^ O'Hara, Dave. "Mike Walton Traded to Bruins," The Associated Press, Monday, February 1, 1971.
  2. ^ Damien Cox and Gord Stellick, 67: The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and the End of an Empire (J. Wiley & Sons Canada, 2006), p73; ("He asked teammate Barry Ashbee who had hit him, and Ashbee told him that nobody had")
  3. ^ "Heart Attack Sidelines Bruce Gamble", Winnipeg Free Press, February 10, 1972, p46
  4. ^ Cox and Stellick, at p73-74

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