Whatever Became of… Andy Bathgate?

He captured the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player in 1959. He sipped champagne from Lord Stanley’s Cup with the Maple Leafs in 1964. He even held the record for most regular season games played, at 1,069. But one of Andy Bathgate’s greatest achievements will never be noted in the record books.

In 1991, nearly 20 years after retirement, Bathgate was back in the arena — the legal arena — battling for his fellow players. He and six other NHLers filed a lawsuit against the league for misappropriation of their pensions. They sued for $50 million and, three long years later, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in their favor. This moral and financial victory meant that 300 ex-pros will finally receive additional pension cheques.

“This decision,” says Bathgate, “was more important than any individual awards or any Stanley Cup ever won.”

Nor does history record that it was Bathgate who invented the curved hockey stick blade (an achievement usually credited to Chicago Black Hawk star Stan Mikita.) It was Bathgate who, in the late ’50s, first discovered the unique whipping action created by a curved stick blade. To achieve the curve, he soaked his blades in hot water d then bent them in the door jambs of washroom cubicle doors — three sticks before each game, one for each period.

One night when Bathgate was playing for the Rangers, Mikita and the Hawks hit the Big Apple and Mikita sweet-talked the Rangers’ trainer into borrowing one of Bathgate’s unique sticks. That night Chicago beat New York, Stan potting several goals with Bathgate’s “banana” bladed stick. By season’s end both Bathgate and Mikita had stick manufacturers custom-bending their sticks. The rest is history.

At 64, Andy Bathgate’s still swinging as a golf pro and is owner/manager of his own driving range in west-end Toronto.