APRIL 25, 1966
If you're looking for a character haunted by what he could never have, try Jay Gatsby, gazing from his lawn at the green dock light on the opposite shore. If you want a man with sense enough to appreciate what he's got, dial up Bill Gadsby, who is close to that fictional character in name but not disposition. The 74-year-old Gadsby, an NHL Hall of Fame defenseman, is one of the greatest players never to win a Stanley Cup. But unlike F. Scott Fitzgerald's tragic hero, he is not going to let what he doesn't have ruin his summer.
Reached at his home in Southfield, Mich., last Thursday, Gadsby had spent the morning playing golf and the afternoon on his riding mower. He was giddily anticipating his 50th-wedding-anniversary party in three days, when he and his wife, Edna, would be joined by family and friends, including former Detroit Red Wings teammate Gordie Howe. And it didn't hurt that his favorite team was on its way to its third Stanley Cup in six years.
Gadsby says he can enjoy the Red Wings' current success without thinking much about the three times he made it to the finals with them, losing in five games to Toronto in 1963, in seven games to Toronto in '64 and in six games to Montreal in '66. Last year Gadsby was reminded more of his own experiences when he saw 41-year-old Ray Bourque of the Avalanche finally win a Cup. Like Bourque, a fellow defenseman, Gadsby had his best shots at a championship late in his career, after moving to a new team.
Gadsby entered the Hall of Fame as a Red Wing, even though he played fewer seasons (5) in Detroit than he did in Chicago (8�) or New York (6�). He coached the Red Wings to a 35-31-12 record in 1968-69 and was fired two games into the '69-70 season for reasons that are still unclear to him. He had an offer to coach the St. Louis Blues but took a job at a friend's crane-rental company in Detroit, which he retired from in 1986.
The coaching debacle isn't the only scar he carries from his hockey days. Gadsby says he had 650 stitches from the neck up, his nose broken 11 times, two shoulder separations, a broken leg and seven teeth knocked out. In the last five years he has had both hips replaced. And of course, there's that Cup he never won.
But as Gadsby sees it, the highs in his hockey career far outweighed the lows. "I think being a pro hockey player, especially in the NHL, is a great life," he says. Great. For Gadsby, it's a word that fits.