At the age of 83 New York Ranger great Andy Bathgate passed away yesterday due to complications from Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
The Blueshirts retired the great winger's number nine on February 22, 2009 along with Harry Howell's number three. The number nine was already in the rafters for the 1994 Cup hero Adam Graves who described the special winger from Winnipeg as "the greatest Ranger to ever wear the number nine." There is good reason why Graves spoke of Bathgate with such respect and reverance.
Over 12 seasons in New York Bathgate played in 719 games with the Rangers and scored 729 points. Bathgate saw the postseason with the Rangers just four times and scored 22 points in 16 games including scoring five goals in six games in 1958. The season after that special playoff performance he won the Hart Trophy and scored 88 points in 70 games including a staggering 40 goals.
Bathgate played his first game for the Rangers on October 18, 1952 and played his last game with them on February 19, 1964. From 1961 until his last game as a Ranger he served as the team's captain. On February 22nd, 1964 Bathgate was traded to Toronto with Don McKenney for Dick Buff, Bob Nevin, Arnie Brown, Bill Collins, and Rod Seiling.
In the dozens of tribute articles that went up yesterday hours after Bathgate's passing the story of how his intentional shot to goaltender Jacques Plante's face forever changed the game was told by many pens. Bathgate was so much more than being a fun bit of hockey trivia. He was a father to two children and a grandfather of a half dozen. He was a brother. He was a husband.
Well into his seventies Bathgate was coaching his grandson's hockey game and operating his own 20-acre golf driving range.
Even more significant than breaking the nose and cutting the cheek of Plante and effectively serving as the catalyst for the goalie mask was the stance that Bathgate took against violence in the game. During his playing career Bathgate spoke out against spearing and it cost him a great deal personally.
"I wrote this article and got fined for it. I got fined $1,000 and I was only making $18,000 at the time so you take that, plus the $1,000 we had to pay into our pension, that's a lot of money out of your pocket.
They changed the rule at the end of the year but they still didn't give me my $1,000 back. It burns my (butt) at times, but you have to stand up for it. Sometimes, you've got to speak up for the betterment of hockey because someone was going to get seriously hurt."
The legacy left both on and off the ice for the game of hockey and the New York Rangers by Andy Bathgate is immense. The hockey world lost a special person yesterday.
From NHL commissioner Gary Bettman:
"Andy Bathgate was a strong leader, a consistently prolific scorer and a fierce competitor. Andy was an All-Star, a Hart Trophy winner, a Stanley Cup champion and a Hall of Famer who earned the respect of the entire hockey world. The NHL family sends heartfelt condolences to his family and his many friends."
From Glen Sather:
"Today the New York Rangers and the hockey world lost a beloved and cherished member of its community with the passing of our Legendary Blueshirt, Andy Bathgate. Andy's Hall of Fame career and many tremendous accomplishments place him among the greatest players who have ever worn a Rangers jersey. Those fortunate enough to have known him fondly remember how he always carried himself with the utmost class and dignity. The entire Rangers organization sends our most heartfelt condolences to Andy's wife Merle and the Bathgate family."
Andrew James Bathgate, born on August 28th, 1932 and deceased on February 26th, 2016. Once a Ranger, forever a Ranger.
Rest in peace, number nine.