Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Original Gamblers

New York City, 1948. Clarence Campbell issues a decree: Don Gallinger of the Boston Bruins and Billy Taylor of the New York Rangers are banned from hockey for life. The crime: “conduct detrimental to hockey and for associating with a known gambler.”

Gallinger’s career had barely begun, and it was over.

The 17-year old Port Colborne native had arrived in Boston in the fall of 1942, having just missed Boston’s memorable ’41 effort when Ralph “Cooney” Weiland prodded Bill Cowley to his first 60-point season, and took Bruins their third Stanley Cup win.

Art Ross – who had spent a frustrating twelve years behind the bench before winning the Cup as coach – immediately sent Weiland to the AHL and resumed his old job. The kid Gallinger would play the game with other teenagers, but he would learn it from the old man.

Gallinger put up 93 points in 121 games, thanks in part to teams weakened by military service. He would end up joining the RCAF in 1943 and serving out the war, before returning to on-ice triumphs.

In the 45-46 season the centre was one of the Bruins’ top-three goal-scorers, and their number-one point man. For the second time in his short career, Gallinger made it to the Stanley Cup final, where Boston fell 4-1 to Dick Irvin’s Canadiens.

But with the team fully restored by the 47-48 season he slipped to sixth, potting just 10 goals in 54 games. Then on March 9, 1948, at the age of 22, his hockey life ended.

Clarence Campbell suspended Gallinger and Taylor, while investigations were made into their gambling. Both denied the charge, but eventually it came out that Gallinger had “bet from $250 to $1000 on games involving the Bruins, and had given out information on the state of his teammates' injuries.” In October, Campbell ordered them out of the game for life.

For Taylor, the decision ended a more substantial career. He had played seven seasons for the Leafs and Red Wings (87 goals, 267 points in 323 games), even notching a record seven assists in one night (Gretzky later tied the record three times, in 1980, 85 and 86).

At the age of 28 he was traded to the Bruins, where he played most of the 47-48 season before being moved to the Rangers.

A scrap of a player, standing 5’9” and 150 pounds, he never stopped fighting the ban.

In 1970 the league had a change of heart, and re-admitted both men to hockey. Taylor would rejoin the game as a scout for the expansion Pittsburgh Penguins. Don Gallinger never did return to the game that rejected him, and he died on April 7, 2000.

There is a curious – although far from unique – postscript to the story, offered by the Stormont Dundas & Glengarry Geneaological Society in 2000.
Recently, GG member Arlene Frolick came across an interesting article about the one-time hockey player. From the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal "Table Talk" the article was headlined "Broadcaster Helps Reunite Father, Son" and was written by Peter Delevett:
"A couple years ago, Dan Rusanowski, an announcer with the San Jose Sharks, was sharing a meal with Bruce Black, a local businessman. Mr. Black mentioned that his dad had been an NHL player--a rather infamous one at that. It seems Bruce's dad was none other than Don Gallinger...Mr. Black didn't find this out (the identity of his father) until fairly late in life. It seems his dad had met his mom, a young Canadian socialite, and carried on a brief affair. Trouble hit when she became pregnant. Since it just wouldn't do in those days for a well-bred heiress to marry a hockey goon, the girl's family spirited her away to California. Young Bruce was put up for adoption soon after his birth. When he turned 18, his adoptive parents broke the news about his real folks. But he'd never found the nerve to track them down."
Sports Broadcaster Rusanowski was fascinated by the story. He offered to tap his NHL contacts to learn of Mr. Gallinger's whereabouts. After several months of digging and dead-ends, Rusanowski traced him to Ontario, Canada. In late 1998, Mr. Black made the toughest phone call of his life, to a father he'd never met. Later, he took his family to Toronto to meet his dad and half-brothers: Donald, Kim and Michael. Don Gallinger died of a heart attack in February at the age of 74.


Post a Comment

<< Home