50 Years Ago in Hockey: Rod Gilbert Out for the Season

The New York Rangers have lost star right-winger Rod Gilbert for the rest of the National Hockey League season. It was decided yesterday that Gilbert will have spinal fusion surgery on his injured back on February 1. He will leave the team immediately and return to his Montreal home to rest and prepare for the operation.

Gilbert will spend the next 10 days at home before returning to New York and entering St. Claire’s hospital on January 24. The surgery will be performed by Rangers team physician Dr. Kazuo Yanagisawa.

First Hurt in 1961

Rod Gilbert, Rangers
Rod Gilbert, seen here in 1962 after his first spinal fusion operation.

Gilbert first injured his back while he was in junior hockey in 1961 when he stepped on some debris on the ice. He underwent spinal fusion surgery at that time, and has played at a high level until this season. He injured the back again this summer and the team had him fitted with a brace. The brace allowed Gilbert to play, but at reduced effectiveness. His mobility was limited and the apparatus also affected his breathing.

The pain and discomfort Gilbert experienced increased over recent weeks and with the Rangers’ playoff hopes fading, the decision was jointly made by the club and the player to undergo surgery immediately.

Recovery time for this type of operation is between six and eight months. Dr. Yanagisawa says that he expects Gilbert, who is in otherwise excellent physical condition, to be fully healed and ready to play by September.

The doctor describes the procedure as necessary to correct “a pseudo arthrosis of the previous fusion.” He went on to say that the spine is injured in two places and surgery is mandatory.

Rangers general manager Emile Francis says that the Rangers were happy to have had Gilbert for part of the season but if surgery is necessary, now is the time:

Rod has played under a tremendous handicap this season and we’re very fortunate to have had his services for even half the year. No doubt his loss is going to hurt us but we’ve got to go along with the doctors and go along with Gilbert.

Gilbert led the Rangers in scoring last season and has 10 goals and 15 assists, still good numbers, this year.

Rangers have recalled two players from the Baltimore Clippers of the American Hockey League. Winger Doug Robinson and centre Ray Cullen will join the team immediately. The additions will put New York two players over the NHL limit of 16 skaters and two goaltenders who can dress for each game. Francis didn’t reveal who would be sent to Baltimore and said an announcement would be forthcoming.

Don Gallinger Plans Hockey School

Don Gallinger
Don Gallinger

Former National Hockey League player Don Gallinger has submitted plans to Blenheim town council to establish what he calls a “hockey university” in that southwestern Ontario town. The plan was submitted through Blenheim lawyer Thomas Warwick.

The school would operate out of the now vacant former St. Francis Monastery. Gallinger is hoping to have use of the town’s arena, swimming pool and baseball park, along with some high school facilities. The local school board must also approve the plan.

The school would provide courses for boys ages 13-20. Sessions would be broken down into three and four week semesters.

Gallinger, a native of Port Colborne, Ontario, played for the Boston Bruins between 1942 and 1948. He began his career with Boston in the 1942-43 season, scoring 14 goals and 20 assists as a 17-year-old. He was third in the rookie-of-the-year voting.

Billy Taylor, seen here with Boston.
Billy Taylor, seen here with Boston.

Midway through his second season, Gallinger left the Bruins to enlist in the air force and graduated at the top of his gunnery class. He returned to the Bruins in 1945-46 and led the team in scoring with 17 goals and 23 assists.

Unfortunately for Gallinger his penchant for gambling caught up to him at the end of the 1948 season.  It was discovered that he and former New York Ranger Billy Taylor were found to have consorted with a known Detroit gambler.  Taylor and Gallinger had been team mates with the Bruins during the 1947-48 season, until Taylor was traded to the Rangers in February.

Police wiretap evidence confirmed that Gallinger had placed bets of between $250 and $1000 on Bruins games on at least eight occasions. He even bet against the Bruins when he knew the team would be hampered by injuries.

On one occasion, on February 18, Gallinger bet $1000 on Chicago for their game against the Bruins. Gallinger scored the winning goal as Boston upset the Hawks, and Gallinger cost himself $1000.

The police wiretap evidence was obtained illegally, and no criminal charges were ever filed against the players. But NHL president Clarence Campbell nevertheless suspended both men from professional hockey for life in October of 1948. Gallinger’s promising hockey career was abruptly cut short at the tender age of 23.

Lowly Nationals Tie Generals

Neil Clark
Neil Clark

The last-place London Nationals surprised the second-place Oshawa Generals by holding them to a 1-1 tie in one of two Ontario Hockey Association Junior A games last night. In the other contest, the Niagara Falls Flyers scored five times in the final period to get by the Toronto Marlboros 7-4.

In London, the Nats surprised the Generals before a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 3,050, who spent much of the game jeering referee Brian Lewis. Lewis earned the ire of the home crowd with a couple of questionable penalty calls against London players.

Things came to a head midway through the final period when Lewis whistled off London captain Neil Clark with a slashing minor, 10-minute misconduct and game misconduct. The game was delayed for several minutes as fans littered the ice with programs and other debris.

All the scoring took place in the first period. John Mercer connected for London with Danny O’Shea replying for the Generals.

Flyers Fire Five in Final Period

Jim Lorentz
Jim Lorentz

In Niagara Falls, over 2,600 fans saw their beloved Flyers  stage a stirring third-period rally to dump the Marlboros.

Toronto grabbed a 2-0 first-period lead thanks to some shaky goaltending on the part of the Flyers’ Dunc Wilson. Mike Byers and Jim McKenny were the Marlie marksmen. Wilson was replaced by Bob Ring in goal for the Flyers to start the second period.

Niagara shaved the lead to one by the end of the second period. Jim Lorentz scored both of the Flyers’ middle frame goals, with Brent Imlach’s goal for the Marlies sandwiched between.

Derek Sanderson’s first of two goals tied things up early in the third period but the Marlboros regained a 4-3 lead just over two minutes later as  McKenny notched his second of the night.

At that point, the roof fell in on Toronto. Niagara Falls scored three goals in just over two minutes to take a 6-4 lead. Dave Woodley, Bud Debrody and Sanderson scored in quick succession between 7:21 and 9:26 and that was pretty well it for the Marlies.

Rosaire Paiement completed the scoring for the Flyers with just over three minutes left in the game.

Berenson to Quebec

The Montreal Canadiens have sent forward Red Berenson to the Quebec Aces of the American Hockey League. Berenson played 22 games for Canadiens this season, scoring three goals and assisting on four others.  He had recently been out of the lineup after cutting his knee when giving his daughter ice-skating lessons. He missed about a week before coming back.

Montreal had called up Leon Rochefort on the weekend and he will remain with the club.