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Binkley's long trek through minors paid off with Penguins

Goalie was 33 when he made NHL debut with expansion team in 1967

by Stan Fischler / Special to

Legendary hockey reporter and analyst Stan Fischler writes a weekly scrapbook for 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.

This month, he writes about goalie Les Binkley, whose perseverance helped him earn a five-season stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins after the NHL's first expansion in 1967.

Les Binkley's reward for his perseverance was to become the starting goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they joined the NHL as part of the 1967 expansion.

Binkley was one of the NHL's last maskless goalies. He was also notable for having worn contact lenses when he played for the Penguins -- and for serving as the "trainer" for Cleveland of the American Hockey league in the 1960s while awaiting a full-time job between the pipes.

"It wasn't as simple as just jumping out of a trainer's white suit and becoming a professional goaltender," he explained.

After playing for more than a decade in the minors, Binkley came to the Penguins in 1967 and was hailed for his humor as well as his performance as a stand-up goalie who eschewed the butterfly technique. "If I had my way," Binkley said, "I'd change the rules and have them substitute a tennis ball for the hard, rubber puck!"

Binkley played more than a decade in the minors and was 33 when he got his chance to play in the NHL with the Penguins after the League expanded from six to 12 teams for the 1967-68 season. He was 20-24 with 10 ties for the first-year Penguins, finishing with a 2.88 goals-against average and six shutouts. Binkley played five seasons with the Penguins and four more in the World Hockey Association before retiring in 1976 at age 41. He never came close to the Stanley Cup as a player, but was part of Pittsburgh's championship teams in 1991 and 1992 as a scout.

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