If you're looking for a character haunted by what he could never
have, try Jay Gatsby, gazing from his lawn at the green dock
light on the opposite shore. If you want a man with sense enough
to appreciate what he's got, dial up Bill Gadsby, who is close
to that fictional character in name but not disposition. The
74-year-old Gadsby, an NHL Hall of Fame defenseman, is one of
the greatest players never to win a Stanley Cup. But unlike F.
Scott Fitzgerald's tragic hero, he is not going to let what he
doesn't have ruin his summer.
Reached at his home in Southfield, Mich., last Thursday, Gadsby
had spent the morning playing golf and the afternoon on his
riding mower. He was giddily anticipating his
50th-wedding-anniversary party in three days, when he and his
wife, Edna, would be joined by family and friends, including
former Detroit Red Wings teammate Gordie Howe. And it didn't
hurt that his favorite team was on its way to its third Stanley
Cup in six years.
Gadsby says he can enjoy the Red Wings' current success without
thinking much about the three times he made it to the finals
with them, losing in five games to Toronto in 1963, in seven
games to Toronto in '64 and in six games to Montreal in '66.
Last year Gadsby was reminded more of his own experiences when
he saw 41-year-old Ray Bourque of the Avalanche finally win a
Cup. Like Bourque, a fellow defenseman, Gadsby had his best
shots at a championship late in his career, after moving to a
Gadsby entered the Hall of Fame as a Red Wing, even though he
played fewer seasons (5) in Detroit than he did in Chicago (8
1/2) or New York (6 1/2). He coached the Red Wings to a 35-31-12
record in 1968-69 and was fired two games into the '69-70 season
for reasons that are still unclear to him. He had an offer to
coach the St. Louis Blues but took a job at a friend's
crane-rental company in Detroit, which he retired from in 1986.
The coaching debacle isn't the only scar he carries from his
hockey days. Gadsby says he had 650 stitches from the neck up,
his nose broken 11 times, two shoulder separations, a broken leg
and seven teeth knocked out. In the last five years he has had
both hips replaced. And of course, there's that Cup he never won.
But as Gadsby sees it, the highs in his hockey career far
outweighed the lows. "I think being a pro hockey player,
especially in the NHL, is a great life," he says. Great. For
Gadsby, it's a word that fits.
but he still hits the links and cheers the Red Wings.