Monday, December 5, 2016

Troy Gamble Autographed Card

Regular readers know I love writing about journeymen players, particularly goaltenders. I always had a thing for goalies, which is why I was one until Juniors, and I probably have a thing for players who go from team to team every year trying to get paid for plying their trade because that's what I seemed destined to become as a goalie - and eventually became as a musician.

There are hundreds of reasons why some players make it to the NHL on a regular basis despite multiple failings (they could be at a level where they will always fit under the cap while the prospect gets his reps in the AHL, à la Anders Lindback) and hundreds more why others don't get as many chances and eventually fade away, as seems to be the case with Dustin Tokarski.

Some get drafted high and take a while to develop (such as Zachary Fucale) while others start off great but fizzle out (like Cam Ward or Jim Carey).

Troy Gamble falls into another category, one closer to that of Darcy Kuemper, who was just about assured of the Minnesota Wild's starting job a couple of seasons ago and held out for a large contract only to see Devan Dubnyk steal his job and post MVP-caliber seasons.

But for Gamble, it wasn't that he gambled on his talent (sorry), but more that after a promising rookie season in 1990-91 where he appeared in 47 games and posted a .500 record (16-16-6), he suffered a massive concussion in an era where such things were dealt with Tylenol and "real men played through pain". All that while the Vancouver Canucks also had Kirk McLean, who was a pretty decent early-90s puck stopper. Semi-elite, sub-Team Canada, kind of like Dubnyk or Cam Talbot.

Which meant Gamble was never allowed to recover from a 4-9-3 record with a 4.34 GAA and .859 save percentage in 1991-92 and was forced to toil around in the minors - mostly the IHL - until he retired after a pretty bad 1995-96 season with the Houston Aeros (16-25-5, 3.83 GAA and .884 save percentage).

We will likely never know how much of his regression was due to the concussion itself, a lack of conditioning after the concussion, a lack of a helpful goaltending coach or just a lack of confidence. Or he may have been surpassed by a new generation that was just too good.

Here he is wearing the Canucks' best white (then-home) uniform, on card #121 from Pro Set's 1991-92 Platinum set, which he signed in black sharpie:
Post-retirement, Gamble remained in the Houston area, eventually becoming the Aeros' colour commentary analyst. He also worked as an executive in the oil industry, even spending a three-year residence in Libya. With that much Texas in him, it wasn't really a surprise that his son Garrett Gamble volunteered to join the Marines and head off to Afghanistan; Garrett died when he stepped on a field mine.

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