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Tears for Toe, a bottle of bubbly for Gump
Pete Waldmeir
May 20, 1968
As Montreal clinched the Stanley Cup final over the amazingly stubborn St. Louis Blues, Coach Toe Blake wistfully announced his retirement (again), and Goalie Lorne (Gump) Worsley exercised a hero's prerogative
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May 20, 1968

Tears For Toe, A Bottle Of Bubbly For Gump

As Montreal clinched the Stanley Cup final over the amazingly stubborn St. Louis Blues, Coach Toe Blake wistfully announced his retirement (again), and Goalie Lorne (Gump) Worsley exercised a hero's prerogative

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The fans in the ancient and rickety Montreal Forum took up the chant when the clock said eight seconds to go. "Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two... ," they shouted to a rhythmic handclapping. "One." A St. Louis Blues defenseman, Barclay Plager, snatched the hockey puck at the blue line and flicked it half fast at stumpy Lorne (Gump) Worsley.

The Gumper caught it in his ample midsection and smothered it tenderly, and in a moment he was besieged by cheering teammates, each eager to bestow congratulations on the man who had carried them to a record 13th Stanley Cup title in a near-perfect 13 playoff games—one over the minimum figures for the expanded National Hockey League—with a final 3-2 victory Saturday afternoon.

The Canadiens won, as expected, in four straight games over the spunky Blues, but it wasn't a pipe. Two of the games went into overtime and all four of the Canadiens' victories were decided by the slimmest possible margin, a mere one goal.

Glenn Hall, the Blues' 36-year-old goalie, was the tragic hero of the series, for of course he lost each of the games by that same single goal. But it was Worsley who was the hero, for he had picked up the Canadiens at their low point, when big Jean Beliveau, the NHL's premier center, suffered a bone chip in his ankle and was sidelined for almost all of the final series. A veteran of 18 years in hockey, the 39-year-old Worsley had won all 11 playoff games in which he was still awake at the finish. In Montreal's only cup loss, Bobby Hull of the Black Hawks put him to sleep for 15 minutes with an errant knee.

As soon as he could clear a way through the mob on the ice, Montreal Coach Hector (Toe) Blake, 55, cradled Worsley under one arm and walked him to center ice, where a red carpet had been rolled out to make a path to the cup. " Blake kept trying to tell me something," Worsley said later in the dressing room as he clutched a bubbly bottle of Mumm's, "but he was crying so hard he couldn't get the words out."

Blake was crying for a number of reasons. One, he said later, was that he is retiring as coach of the Canadiens after 13 seasons, nine NHL titles and eight Stanley Cup championships. "I've already told the Senator [J. David Molson, the Canadiens' president] that I'm through," said Blake, who retires each spring only to change his mind in the fall. "This time I mean it."

J. C. Tremblay, who had set up a tying goal and scored the winning goal in the final game, also was applauded at center ice. Then the predominantly French-speaking fans in the overheated crowd of 15,505 took up another chant.

"On veut Beliveau.... On veut Beliveau," they shouted over and over. "We want Beliveau."

Within moments Big John, the toast of La Belle Province, struggled to center ice on his crutches. Not even Worsley was more roundly cheered.

In the dressing room later Worsley tipped up the cold, green champagne bottle with �lan. He wore Blake's stained gray hat pulled down over his floppy ears and the photographers snapped pictures. "They said we couldn't have a bottle apiece," said Worsley. "It would be too expensive. Well, I said the Gumper could have a bottle to himself, all right." And he did.

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