The route to the NHL for Rick Wamsley began in the small southwestern Ontario town of Simcoe, Ontario, also the breeding ground for Colorado Avalanche star defenseman Rob Blake. Wamsley's dreams of making it to the NHL started to become a reality when he was selected to the powerful St. Catharines Fincups of the Ontario Hockey League at the age of 17 in 1976, serving as the backup to starter Al Jensen.
A year earlier, the Fincups, playing out of Hamilton, won the Memorial Cup. Many of that team's stars returned for what many believed would be a certain second Cup win in a row. The Fincups, considered one of the best junior teams of all-time, boasted the likes of future NHLers such as Dale McCourt, Al Secord, Ric Seiling, Willie Huber, Mike Keating, and Jensen. Despite being the best team during the regular season, the team was upset in the playoffs by Bobby Smith and the Ottawa 67s.
Wamsley and the Fincups returned to Hamilton the following season, but many of the veterans had now moved on, so it was a rebuilding year and Wamsley had the opportunity to backstop 25 games. Fragile ownership saw the team pick up and move for the fourth time in as many years, this time to nearby Brantford, where Wamsley finished out his junior career with the Alexanders.
The Montreal Canadiens selected Wamsley in the 3rd round, 58th overall, in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft. After a little over a year with Montreal's farm team in Nova Scotia, he was called up to the big club in 1981. The 1981-82 season had Wamsley appearing in 38 games for the Habs and he followed that up with a 46-game stint the next year. By now, Wamsley had firmly entrenched himself as a legitimate NHL goalie.
Despite enjoying a certain degree of success with the Canadiens, including sharing the Jennings Trophy with Denis Heron in 1982. The hockey club was in a downswing after a recent string of Stanley Cup victories and the organization seemed uncertain as to who would handle their goaltending duties in the future. Those questions were soon answered with the arrival of Patrick Roy. Wamsley moved on to play in St. Louis for the next three seasons appearing in 40, 41, and 31 games, respectively.
The highlight of Wamsley's NHL playing career came in 1988-89, when he had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup as part of the champion Calgary Flames. Although a backup to starter Mike Vernon, Wamsley was an integral part of the team's success, playing in 35 regular-season games, posting a 17-11-4 mark with a 2.96 GAA and two shutouts. The fact the Flames beat the Canadiens, Wamsley's first NHL team, made winning that much sweeter.
On January 2, 1992, Wamsley was part of one of the biggest trades in NHL history, one that saw Doug Gilmour, Jamie Macoun, Kent Manderville, Ric Nattress and himself head to Toronto for Gary Leeman, Alexander Godynyuk, Jeff Reese, Michel Petit, and Craig Berube. The trade has also gone down in history as one of the more one-sided, the Leafs winning the deal hands down.
Wamsley ended his playing career in 1993 as a backup to Felix Potvin with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He now serves as goaltender coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets.