Much as Marian Gaborik was the face of the Minnesota Wild since day one, the same can be said for Bill Goldsworthy and the Minnesota North Stars. And like Gaborik, Goldsworthy was dealt to the New York Rangers and subsequently made his return to the scene of his former triumphs. While Gaborik’s status is in doubt for Friday night’s game, Goldy, as he was popularly known, was very much in action for his first game against his former team.
The 6-foot, 190 pound right wing had been North Stars’ General Manager Wren Blair’s number one choice in the 1967 NHL expansion draft as hockey’s major league had doubled its size to twelve teams. He had not disappointed Blair or Minnesota fans and helped the new team to playoff berths in 1967/68, 1969/70, 1970/71, 1971/72, and 1972/73. His 15 points (8g, 7a) led all playoff scorers in his first year and by the time of his trade to the Rangers on November 11, 1976 he was the franchise leader in goals (267), and points (506). Nonetheless, the Stars’ failure to make the playoffs for three straight years had taken the bloom off of Goldy’s lily. Jack Gordon, Blair’s successor as general manager, dealt the creator of the “Goldy Shuffle” to the Broadway Blueshirts.
In return, Gordon got Nick Beverly, a not overly physical, but solid puck-handling defenseman to complement Tom Reid and Fred Barrett, who had been playing the right side. The other acquisition was Bill Fairbairn, whom North Stars’ Coach Ted Harris described as “hard-nosed and a good checker.” Both had fallen into disfavor with Rangers’ Coach/General Manager John Ferguson. As to Goldsworthy, his reaction was predictable, as evidenced by his quote in the Minneapolis Tribune:
“It was a shock. My career here was good…When you make the big dollar and have had big years (five 30-plus goal scoring years), people might expect too much. That may be unfair, because one guy can’t carry any team in any sport. I hope Fairburn and Beverly do well here, but I hope the fans don’t expect the trade alone to put the Stars in the playoffs…”
As events played out, the Stars did make the playoffs, but were quickly ousted in the first round by Buffalo, two games to none. Goldsworthy and the Rangers missed the post-season tournament. He scored only ten goals the rest of the year, but one of those came against his old team on December 4, 1976 at the Met Center and he made the most of the opportunity. With New York ahead 4-2 early in the second period, the blond-haired winger, now playing on the right side, made it 5-2 with his first goal for his new team. With assists from line mates Phil Esposito and Ken Hodge, he scored at 7:12 and immediately went into the Goldy Shuffle. He then stood at midrink and shot his arm into the air in salute to the fans.
“First of all, I’ll take the win, but it was doubly sweet to score against my old teammates. I needed that one,” he told the Minneapolis Tribune.
The win Goldsworthy referred to was a 11-4 pasting of the Stars. There are few guarantees in life, but we can pretty much guarantee that there won’t be 15 goals scored in Gabby’s return to Minnesota on Friday night. We can’t guarantee that he won’t salute the fans in some way if he does find the back of the net.