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Growing up in Port Arthur, Bruce Gamble showed a lot of promise as a goaltender from a very young age. He began playing in the Thunder Bay Junior “A” Hockey League at only fifteen years old, joining the Port Arthur Bruins in the 1953-1954 and 1954-1955 seasons, and the Port Arthur North Stars during the 1955-1956 season. Moving up to the Ontario Hockey Association in 1956, he played two seasons with the Guelph Biltmores. In 1958, Gamble was called up to play for the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens during their playoff stretch, and went on to capture the Memorial Cup as Canadian junior hockey champions. At five foot nine and 200 pounds, he made up for his stout build with his athleticism and agility. Demonstrating an unconventional style of goaltending, which was more acrobatic than the rigid stand-up style that was popular at the time, he found his way into the professional ranks.

Gamble’s first taste of professional hockey came in the 1957-58 season with the Providence Reds where he played one game, allowing only one goal en route to a victory. The following season Gamble played 65 games with the Vancouver Canucks of the Western Hockey League (WHL). The Port Arthur native had an impressive season with the Canucks, winning 29 games, including seven shutouts. He received the WHL Rookie of the Year Award that year, and was named to the Second All-Star Team. The 1958-59 season also saw Gamble get called up to his first two National Hockey League (NHL) games with the New York Rangers. Gamble would then switch teams to the Boston Bruins after being taken by them in the 1959 Intra-League Draft, a draft that was a way for teams to pick up non-regular roster players from other teams for a fee.

After two seasons of playing back and forth in the minor leagues and with the Boston Bruins, Gamble played the entire 1962-63 season with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Eastern Professional Hockey League, backstopping the team to a league championship.

Gamble played around in the minors resiliently for some more years, and eventually found a consistent home in Toronto with the Maple Leafs, serving as their legitimate starting goalie in three full seasons from 1967 to 1970. His play earned him a spot in the 1968 NHL All-Star Game in Toronto, where he would take MVP honours. Joining the Philadelphia Flyers mid-way through the 1970-71 season, he was forced into retirement a year later after suffering a heart attack during a game.

Playing in 679 professional games in 14 years, including playing for the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Philadelphia Flyers, he was one of the last goalies to not wear a facemask at the pro level, and one of very few goalies to represent northwestern Ontario in the NHL. Passing away in 1982, at the age of only 44, he left behind an impressive legacy.

Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 29, 1984

Bruce Gamble

Port Arthur
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