It is with great sadness on Friday the Maple Leafs learned of the passing of Andy Bathgate. He was 83 years old.
A native of Winnipeg, Bathgate grew up in a hockey family, playing on outdoor rinks in Manitoba. The youngest of three boys -- he also had two sisters -- Andy was the third of the brothers to pick up the game of hockey. His oldest brother Bernie played semi-pro hockey across Canada. As his career progressed, Andy had the opportunity to play junior hockey with his brother Frank and the pair went on to play a pair of games together as rookies with the New York Rangers.
After developing a reputation as a talented player in Winnipeg, Bathgate signed a contract to become property of the New York Rangers. With his brother Frank, who was also a member of the Rangers pipeline, joining the OHA's Guelph Biltmore Mad Hatters the Bathgate family opted to move to Ontario so Andy and Frank would not be restricted as out-of-province import players. In 1949, at 17 years old, Andy played his first season with the Biltmores. He went on to play for Guelph until he was 20 years old and captured a Memorial Cup in 1952. He recorded 83 goals and 216 points over 129 games in his time with Guelph.
Bathgate never finished his final season with the Biltmores. Two games into his fourth year of junior hockey he was recalled by the Rangers who were looking for a spark after a tough start to the season. He played a combined 38 games through his first two NHL seasons -- he had intermittent stints in that time with the Vancouver Canucks of the Western Hockey League and Cleveland Barons of the American League -- before cementing his place with the Rangers in 1954-55.
For the duration of his time with the Rangers, Bathgate was one of the premier offensive players in the NHL. In 719 games over 12 seasons, Bathgate recorded 272 goals and 729 points for New York and finished in the League's top-10 in scoring from 1955-56 until 1963-64. He captured the Hart Trophy in 1959, was named a First Team NHL All-Star in 1959 and 1964 and earned Second Team NHL All-Star nods in 1958 and 1963.
During his time with the Rangers, Bathgate also made a cameo in what has since become one of modern hockey's seminal moments. On Nov. 1, 1959 during a game between the Rangers and Montreal Canadiens, Bathgate put a shot on goals towards Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante. The shot struck Plante in the face and sent him off the ice to be stitched up. When Plante returned, he did so with a mask. To this day, the moment is considered the advent of the modern goaltender's mask and, in a strange way, Bathgate made it possible.
Despite Bathgate's prolific output, the Rangers only made the playoffs three times during his time in New York and on Feb. 22, 1964 he got his chance to pursue a Stanley Cup in earnest.
The Rangers sent Bathgate and teammate Don McKenney to the Maple Leafs in exchange for Dick Duff, Bob Nevin, Rod Seiling, Arnie Brown and Bill Collins. The Maple Leafs believed that acquiring Bathgate, the then-Rangers captain, would push the team over the top in their pursuit of a third consecutive Stanley Cup.
It was a good bet. Not only did the Maple Leafs advance to the Stanley Cup final but, after Bob Baun recorded his famed game-winning goal in Game Six of the 1964 Final on a broken leg, Bathgate scored the game-winning goal in Game Seven over the left shoulder Terry Sawchuk. That goal sealed the only Stanley Cup win of Bathgate's career.
The photo of Bathgate hoisting the Stanley Cup in the Maple Leafs dressing room is believed to be the first ever photo taken of what is now an iconic annual moment.
He had a productive 1964-65 season in Toronto with 45 points in 55 games, but a broken thumb ultimately hampered him from recapturing his typical form. In the summer of 1965, Bathgate was traded to the Red Wings. His career in Toronto wrapped up with 19 goals and 63 points in 70 games.
The deal with Detroit was the second headline grabbing trade of his career. Bathgate, Billy Harris and Gary Jarrett were sent to Detroit in exchange for Marcel Pronovost, Eddie Joyal, Larry Jeffrey, Lowell MacDonald and Aut Erickson.
Bathgate went on to play 130 games over two seasons for the Red Wings, recording 23 goals and 78 points. When the NHL expanded, he was claimed by the Pittsburgh Penguins. He reported to the Penguins for the 1967-68 season and led the new franchise in scoring with 59 points in 74 games.
In the summer of 1968 the Penguins had planned on trading Bathgate to Montreal where the Canadiens wanted him to retire and coach the AHL's Montreal Voyageurs. Rather than calling it a career, Bathgate went back to the Western Hockey League and the Vancouver Canucks.
As the elder statesman on the club, Bathgate helped lead the Canucks to two consecutive Lester Patrick Cups in 1969 and 1970. He also captured the George Leader Cup as the league's MVP in 1970 after posting 40 goals and 108 points in 72 games.
Following his MVP season in Vancouver, Bathgate returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins once again for the 1970-71 season. At the age of 38, he recorded 15 goals and 44 points in his final NHL season.
After his time in the NHL came to an end, Bathgate had a brief stint as a player coach with Swiss club HC Ambri-Piotta, posting 20 goals and 35 points in 21 games during his on-ice action. He also had a brief return to the North American pro circuit in 1974-75 with the WHA's Vancouver Blazers. In 11 games with the Blazers he recorded a goal and six assists.
Bathgate was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978 alongside Pronovost -- the player the Leafs acquired when they traded Bathgate to Detroit -- and Plante -- who Bathgate forced to wear a mask with one of his trademark shots.
In 1,069 NHL games, Bathgate recorded 349 goals and 973 points. His #9 sweater was retired by the New York Rangers on Feb. 22, 2009. He was a Memorial Cup Champion, two-time Lester Patrick Cup champion and Stanley Cup Champion. He is a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame, the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame and the Hockey Hall of Fame.