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Rangers practice goalie Nocks was famed TV director

Losing two front teeth was small price for chance to stop pucks at workouts with favorite team

by Stan Fischler / Special to NHL.com

Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler is writing a weekly scrapbook for NHL.com this season. Fischler, known as "The Hockey Maven," will share his knowledge, humor and insight with readers each Wednesday. Once a month, he will let a picture from his vast collection do the talking in his "Picture is Worth 100 Words" feature.

Today, he looks at TV director/New York Rangers practice goalie Arnee Nocks.

Arnee Nocks never had a doubt about his career objective.

"I always wanted to become the Rangers starting goalie," the Brooklyn native said. "It was my lifetime ambition."

But television got in the way, so Nocks had to settle for a reasonable facsimile; he served as New York's practice goalie from 1956 through 1963. That was a time when the six NHL teams generally carried one goalie and would often employ amateurs and low-level minor leaguers for practice and emergencies.

"It was the best seven years of my life," Nocks said.

There was, however, a problem: As a prize-winning director for such TV hits as "The Kraft Theater" and "Captain Video and his Video Rangers," Nocks was in constant demand. Yet he somehow managed to show up, without fail, for practice with the Rangers.

"I had Arnee up against (Hockey Hall of Famer) Gump Worsley at our 1958 training camp," then-Rangers coach Phil Watson remembered. "Gump gave up five goals and Arnee gave up nothing. I told Nocks, 'You'd be my regular goalie but you're too old.'"

Nocks was 32 at the time.

Worsley, who was Nocks' closest friend, thought he was nuts, and told him so. "I get paid for stopping pucks," Worsley snapped. "You risk your life and do it for nothing. Are you crazy?"

Nocks fired back, saying "I'd pay the Rangers just to let me do it."

After Nocks spent several hazardous years between the pipes, his buddies on the Rangers finally talked him into wearing a mask. It happened not a moment too soon.

During one scrimmage. a screened shot by Pat Hannigan struck Arnee's mask at the mouth. The plastic covering shattered into 100 pieces, along with his two front teeth. But Nocks emerged smiling like someone who had genuinely found his calling.

"Now," he concluded, "I'm a real hockey player!"

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