Andy Bathgate in New York Ranger vestments, circa 1959. (Photo: Weekend Magazine / Louis Jaques / Library and Archives Canada / e002505654)
Andy Bathgate’s distinguished NHL career is being remembered today following his death yesterday in Brampton at the age of 83, Ontario. Worth your while are Richard Goldstein’s obituary in The New York Times and Lance Hornby’s appreciation from The Toronto Sun.
Otherwise, maybe we’ll pause to salute to Bathgate’s literary legacy. As Goldstein and Hornby both recall, he did publish a notorious 1960 article in True magazine calling out the league’s spearing artists — more to come on that. There was a book, too, in 1963, co-written with sportscaster Bob Wolff. There’s a bit of autobiography to Andy Bathgate’s Hockey Secrets, some scenes from his childhood in Winnipeg, but mostly it’s focussed on the how-tos, from tying your skates and making the most of your wristshot to avoiding the grim dangers of goal-celebrations, all in the interest of guiding the next generation of NHLers into the league. He wasn’t going to play forever. “In a few years,” he mused, “there’ll be new headliners on the ice. There will also be some other talented youngsters who will not savor big league glory and gold unless they learn the all-important extras along the way. This book is mainly for them. I want others to benefit by what it’s taken me years to learn, so they can be ready when those openings occur in the National Hockey League. And there’ll be openings, I can assure you. One of the vacated spots will be mine.”
Herewith, twelve select sentences from the body of the book, extracted live from their context if not their wisdom:
I did not learn my hockey from books.
You just can’t be successful in a sport like hockey or football if you worry about injury or looks.
A good stick man never changes grips.
Talking plays a most important part in passing.
If you want to see a master at it, watch Henri Richard.
The injuries that hurt the most are the foolish ones.
I find that staying condition is a pleasant, year-round job.
If things are quiet, I’ll start clowning round a bit or needle a teammate to get some chatter and kibitzing started.
Second wind is difficult to describe.
When you fire the puck properly in a power shot, you feel it right from the blade through your hands, your wrists, your arms.
I’m no longer sure within my heart whether I’ve had a special aptitude for this game or not.
The secret is toe control.