THE DEATH OF Hall of Fame goaltender Lorne (Gump) Worsley at age 77 of a heart attack last Friday was a somber reminder that they don't make hockey nicknames like they used to. Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin is Ovie, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Chris Pronger is Prongs, nicknames so achingly dull they put the sob in sobriquet. The colorful Gumper—named after the comic-strip character Andy Gump—was old school in every way, down to playing without a mask. He played 21 NHL seasons without one because, as he was fond of saying, "my face is my mask."
That comfortable moon mug, perfect for a doughy 5'7", 180-pound body, was as familiar as one of Worsley's contemporaries: Yogi Berra. Like Berra, the Gumper was droll. (Unlike Berra, he was intentionally droll.) Worsley's portfolio was impressive—he shared two Vezina Trophies as the NHL's best goalie and won four Stanley Cups in the 1960s with his hometown Canadiens. But perhaps he is best remembered as the netminder for the Rangers in the 1950s and early '60s when the Broadway Blueshirts were the dregs of the six-team league. When asked at the time which team gave him the most trouble, Worsley famously replied, "The New York Rangers."