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Dr. Sport: Bathgate battled and touched many

by Greg Douglas / Vancouver Canucks

SCENE & HEARD: Orland Kurtenbach was saddened but not terribly surprised when he learned Friday afternoon that his longtime friend and NHL foe Andy Bathgate had died at the age of 83.

“He’d been fighting dementia the past couple of years,” Kurtenbach said. “We’ve lost another great one. Andy was a leader on and off the ice. He never forgot his friends and believe me, he had many. He touched a lot of people.”

Kurtenbach remembers hitting the bright lights of New York as an NHL rookie in 1960 when Bathgate was an established star. “Andy and his wife Merle invited me to stay at their home until I got settled. He was a lifelong friend.”

While Bathgate made his mark as an NHL Hall of Fame player with the Rangers, Maple Leafs, Red Wings and Penguins, he had some historic stops in Vancouver with the Western Hockey League champion 1968-69 and 1969-70 Canucks and as a player-coach with the World Hockey Association Blazers in 1973-74. He also played with the WHL Canucks in his rookie pro season in 1952-53.

“Somebody once said he had a handshake that could crush a puck,” Kurtenbach, no slouch himself when it came to tough guys in the NHL, said Friday. “As nice a man as he was, he could scrap with the best of them. I’m sure he didn’t win all of his fights over his career but he never backed down from anybody. Back in the original six-team days of the NHL there’d be about 300 players in the league. Andy was respected by each and every one of them.”

HERE ‘N’ THERE: A full table of Canucks alumni members, all of whom would have crossed paths with Bathgate at one time or another, were on hand to acknowledge the induction of Harold Snepsts at the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame ceremonies Thursday night. The packed Firefighters Club in Metrotown was rocking with the now famous chant “Har-r-r-o-o-ld” when the popular former Canucks defenceman was introduced. The Class of 2015 also included athletes Dave Evans (lacrosse), Barry Seebaran (cricket); builders Steve Govett (lacrosse) and Doug Ross (soccer); football coach Darrell Hall and the 1997 Canadian girls Under-19 champion Burnaby Blast.

SHORT HOPS: North Vancouver graphic artist and designer Graham Coulthard made a rare visit to Hastings Racecourse last year and snapped a photo of mud-stained veteran jockey Pedro Alvarado in the winner’s circle. What resulted was Coulthard’s oil on canvas portrait entitled “Pedro the Jockey” winning an online Fushion Art award that has now earned him an invitation to attend an international awards show in Palm Springs, Calif., next November. Over the years, Coulthard’s freelance illustrations have appeared in The Vancouver Sun while he was also working as a courtroom artist for CBC Television.

END ZONE: BC Sports Hall of Fame staffers have been overwhelmed with 211 submissions for consideration to be among the 50 Golden Moments in B.C. sports history that will eventually be whittled down to an overall winner at this year’s Banquet of Champions on June 9. Voting opens to the public on March 9.

Greg Douglas’ Dr. Sport column appears every second Saturday in The Sun.

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