Esso Hockey since 1936Legends Of Hockey
Esso Hockey since 1936
Gadsby, Bill

Gadsby, Bill

When Gadbsy was a child back home in cozy Alberta, he'd routinely stay out late at night, playing hockey with his friends until he was exhausted or in so much trouble with his parents he knew it was time to go. He'd creep into the house under the cover of night and try to get his equipment dry enough for the next day's skating. It was against this background that his father asked him one day whether he wanted to continue his schooling or pursue a career in hockey. Gadsby said hockey, and his father supported the decision from that day forward.

Gadsby left Calgary to play junior in nearby Edmonton with the Canadians, and while there he gained the admiration of Chicago scout Bill Tobin. Gadsby, a lifelong Hawks fan, was delighted to sign with Tobin for the astronomical sum of $7,500 plus a $3,000 bonus. He joined the team's minor-league affiliate in Kansas City under coach Doc Romnes. Such was the speed of his development that after only 12 games in the minors the 18-year-old was promoted to the parent team in the Windy City. In his first game, he was cut for 12 stitches, a portentous NHL debut in light of his future penchant for damaging his body in the line of defensive duty. Late in the season, he scored a game-winning goal against Harry Lumley in the Detroit net with one second to go in the game. It was one of the biggest thrills of his life.

Gadsby remained a Black Hawk for the better part of nine years before being traded to the Rangers. After six seasons with the Rangers, Gadsby was involved in a trade that was to have sent him to the Red Wings. He and Eddie Shack were going to Motown for Billy McNeill and Red Kelly. But two days later, Kelly couldn't be convinced to report to New York and the deal was nullified. However, a year and a half later, the Rangers successfully sent Gadsby packing to Detroit. This time he remained a Red Wing until the day he retired at the end of the 1965-66 season after 20 years in the NHL.

While Gadsby was always a star in the league - a First Team All-Star choice three times, a Second Team All-Star four times - he never won the Stanley Cup. In fact, although he played some 1,248 regular-season games, he played only 67 playoff games, making it to the finals three times. In 1963 and 1964 his Red Wings lost to the Leafs and in 1966 Detroit lost in six games to Montreal.

As the years passed, he became as famous for his cuts as his play. He reputedly received more than 600 stitches to his face, a statistic he laughs about because he was one of only a few players to take out insurance on cuts, which paid him $5 for every stitch he received. His nose also suffered numerous breaks and he was heir to a host of other injuries, both great and small, during his lengthy career. All of these were due entirely to his physical play and reckless abandon. His style changed after 1950-51, however, when he suffered a serious shoulder separation and then a broken leg.

Although he played in an era of defensive hockey, Gadsby set a record for assists by defensemen with 46 in 1958-59. Gadsby's last five years in the league were with the Wings and shortly after retiring he became the team's head coach. He was behind the bench for all of 1968-69, but the team missed the playoffs and he was replaced just two games into the following season

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