This is the last part of the set and is made up of the balance of the Rangers team.
1957-58 was a good year for New York. They made their third straight playoff appearance and their winning percentage of .550 was their best since 1942. They had some good young talent, a legitimate star in Andy Bathgate and a pretty sound goaltender, so I don’t know why they fell off so bad in subsequent years. That .550 would be their last season better than .500 for nine years and their best effort until 1967-68.
Their results with Worsley in goal were significantly better than with Marcel Paille, so it’s possible this season’s results were really a result of Gump carrying the team. Bathgate was also excellent.’
There are only twelve cards in this post, but some really interesting people.
Page 7 – cards 55-63
#55: Jack “Tex” Evans was a tough, veteran blueliner who was pretty well-regarded. He was up and down with the Rangers almost every season between 1948-49 and 1954-55, but then stuck and only missed five games over the next eight seasons. A low-scoring banger out of Alberta (via Wales), he won his only Cup with Chicago in 1961. Out of the NHL after 1962-63, he played in the minors until 1972. He also coached eight seasons in the NHL with the Seals, Barons and Whalers. His prairie drawl earned him the nickname “Tex.”
#56: George “Red” Sullivan started in the Boston system but struggled to stay with the big club. A 119-point season for their farm club in Hershey caught the eye of the Black Hawks, who traded for him in September 1954. Sullivan would remain a regular until 1960-61, peaking at 63 points in 1958-59. After a couple years in the minors, he would return as the Rangers’ coach in the middle of the 1962-63 season, remaining there until 1965-66. He would also coach Pittsburgh and Washington in the NHL.
#57: Gerry Foley (RC) would dress for 68 games on the wing this season, but presumably only in spot duty, as he only scored 2 goals and 5 assists. It would be his last NHL action until a single game with the LA Kings – eleven years later in 1968-69. In the meantime, he spent eight years with Eddie Shore’s Springfield Indians – the team Don Cherry often called “the Siberia of Hockey.” They were unaffiliated and not easy to get away from and Shore was “interesting” to play for.
#58: Andy Hebenton would record his third consecutive 20-goal season in 1957-58 and would pot 33 the next season. Hebenton was in the middle of what would become a record-setting iron-man streak of 630 games. Like current record-holder Doug Jarvis, he never missed a game in his entire career. He played every game of the 9 seasons he saw NHL action. His streak ended when he was sent to the minors for the 1964-65 season. In the minors he was just as durable, missing just two games (both in 1967-68) over the next ten seasons. He retired in 1974-75 at age 45. Overall, starting in 1952-53 in the WHL, he played in 1562 of 1564 possible games, and his total streak is at minimum 1054 games. Assuming the games he missed in 1951-52 and 1967-68 weren’t right at the end and start of the season, the real total is likely somewhere beyond 1100 consecutive games.
#59: Larry Cahan played just 34 games in 1957-58 (no Andy Hebenton, our Larry) due to an injury I can’t find documented. He was a good-sized defender who came to the Rangers in 1956 from the Toronto system. He would remain with the Rangers, though up and down with their various farm clubs, through 1964-65. The Oakland Seals would rescue him from the minors in 1967-68, and he would play in the bigs with the Seals, Kings and the Chicago Cougars of the WHA into his 40s. Larry was one of the two Seals (Ron Harris was the other) who hit Bill Masterton of the North Stars in 1968. Masterton hit his head on the way down and died of his injuries. It is now suspected that the helmetless Masterton was suffering from a serious concussion already and had no business being in the game (this was undiagnosed at the time and wouldn’t have been accounted for anyway). The jolt from this collision rendered him unconscious before he hit the ice. Neither Cahan nor Harris was ever considered culpable for the death – the only death directly resulting from NHL play.
#60: Andy Bathgate was the brightest star on the Rangers. He’d lead them in scoring this year with 78 points and would place second in Hart (MVP) voting. An great skater and creative offensive force, he would win the Hart in ’58-59. He led the league in assists twice, tied for the scoring lead once and had at least 46 assists and at least 74 points every year between 1955-56 and 1963-64 – all done with a steel plate in one knee (result of an injury in junior). He scored the Cup-winner in 1964 for Toronto, but a 1965 wrist injury hampered his performance and started him wandering around the league, with stints in Detroit, the minors, then Pittsburgh. He retired in 1971, though returned for 11 WHA games in 1974-75.
#61: Danny Lewicki was a great Ranger find in 1954-55, when he came out of nowhere to score 29 goals. He had been a Leaf prospect and part of the 1951 Cup winner, but his style (little attention to defense) wasn’t to Conn Smythe’s liking and he was stuck with the AHL’s Pittsburgh Hornets. By 1957-58, his production was waning and he’d score just 11 goals and 30 points. His last NHL action would come in 1958-59 with the Black Hawks. He’d retire from the AHL’s Quebec Aces in 1963.
#62: Dean Prentice always strikes me as an unsung hero. He was a very good winger who had an excellent 22-season career in the NHL, but most of it was spent with iffy teams. He only got to the playoffs six times in 22 years and out of the first round just once. As a Bruin on December 27, 1964, Dean was tripped up on a breakaway and slammed into the boards. Taunted by Bobby Hull to get up, he did and scored on the resulting penalty shot. On the bench, he lost feeling in his legs and it was determined that he’d scored the goal with a broken back. It cost him the rest of the season. He retired in 1974 after playing for the Wings, Penguins and North Stars.
#63: Camille Henry was rather small and not particularly fast, but had a knack for getting open and scoring lots of goals. He scored 32 of them in 1957-58 and would peak at 37 in just 60 games in 1962-63. A Lady Byng-winner once and finalist six other times, Henry only had 88 minutes in penalties over parts of 14 NHL seasons and only had double-digits twice. He retired as a St. Louis Blue in 1969-70.
Page 8 – cards 64-66
#64: “Leapin’ Lou” Fontinato was the first player ever to hit 200 penalty minutes in a season (202 in 1955-56) and would lead the league in 1957-58 with a comparatively tame 152. As the policeman on the Rangers, he was as feared as anyone through the mid-to-late 1950s. A 1959 fight with Gordie Howe left him extremely bloodied, though it cost him hardly any time. Playing for Montreal in 1962-63, his career was ended by a broken neck received as the result of a hit into the boards. He would walk away, but never played again.
#65: Bill Gadsby was, for a long time, the gold standard for a great player who never won a Stanley Cup (this probably now falls to Marcel Dionne). Gadsby broke in as a teenager in Chicago in 1946-47 (same season as Gordie Howe) and was either a first or second-team All-Star seven times in his 20 seasons. A high-scoring defenseman in an era where there weren’t many who topped 30 points, he managed it nine times and topped 50 twice. He placed ninth overall in NHL scoring in 1955-56. Physical as well, he hit Tim Horton in open ice in 1955 hard enough to break both Horton’s jaw and leg. He retired in 1965-66 with Detroit at age 38.
#66: Dave Creighton was a decent centre who could score if given ice time. He had a career-best 52 points for the Rangers in 1957-58, but would be left exposed in the 1958 Intra-League Draft and wound up with Toronto. Seeing only spot duty the next two seasons as he bounced between Toronto and Rochester, he scored only 18 more NHL points. He continued to play in the minors until 1968-69, but wasn’t one of the veterans to gain a second life via expansion. This card, as the final one in the set, tends to get bashed up and is thus somewhat pricey.
That does it for this set. It was a favourite of mine in the 80s and it’s kind of hard to believe that I won’t be getting another one unless I luck into a Howe on the cheap (there is Kelly to upgrade as well, I guess). For the record, the last two I needed to finish it off were Vic Stasiuk and Dean Prentice.
The next set that’s near to completion is 1961-62 Topps, of which I only need four. I need to upgrade the checklist, though, and that’s rarely fun.
I also need a new project that won’t be prohibitively expensive. Not sure just what that will be.