Small Town Hockey Heroes: Bert Gardiner

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Born in Saskatoon on March 25, 1913, Bert Gardiner would play parts of a few seasons in the NHL before fading away to regular life. Gardiner is not so much known for his prowess in the net as a goalie, but for his brush with several unique NHL records.
His professional hockey career began with the Saskatoon Mercuries in 1931-32, where he recorded one win and two losses.
Moving over to the Calgary Jimmies in 1931-32, he would lead the team to the Alberta Junior Championship twice, and two consecutive Memorial Cup appearances in 1932 and 1933.
In 1933-34, he played for the Saskatoon Elites, recording six wins and seven losses.
After a stint with the New York Crescents in 1934-35, where he had 15 wins, he started his NHL career with one game for the New York Rangers in 1935-36, recording one win.
From 1935 to 1939, he would play for the farm team of the Rangers, the Philadelphia Ramblers, recording several respectable seasons and getting over 26 wins every season, including 32 in 1939. His play was good enough that in the 1938-39 playoffs he was called up to play six games with the Rangers, picking up three wins and three losses.
This is where we come to one of our unique records and tales with Gardiner. First, he would give up three game-winning goals in the 1939 playoffs to one player, Mel Hill, including the deciding game that eliminated the Rangers from the playoffs.
He would play again for the Ramblers in 1939-40, earning 15 wins and 31 losses. The following year he played for New Haven and then was called up to the Montreal Canadians in 1940-41. It was during that year that he would record the first shared shutout with Paul Bibeault, with both goalies rotating in every few minutes by Dick Irvin in a 6-0 win over the New York Americans. During that season with the Canadiens, he recorded 13 wins and 23 losses. He would return to the Canadiens the following season, picking up one win and eight losses.
Another unique connection, well two of them, came during his time with the Canadiens. First, Pat Egan would score only the second-ever penalty shot goal by a defence man on Gardiner on Nov. 16, 1941. On Nov. 24, 1942, Bep Guidolin would score the goal by the youngest player in NHL history, when he was only 16-years-old.
It was back down to the minors after that, playing for the Washington Lions in 1941-42. In 1942-43, he played 50 games for the Chicago Black Hawks, earning 17 wins and 18 losses. In his last NHL season, 1943-44, he would play for the Boston Bruins for 41 games, winning 17 games and losing 19.
In 1943, he would suffer one of the worst defeats for a goaltender, letting in 13 goals in a loss to the Canadiens.
This brings us to another unique connection for Gardiner to NHL lore.
Gardiner was remembered on the Bruins for his fondness for alcohol and a week after the loss to Montreal, Art Ross, his coach, would not allow him on the train to Toronto after he smelled alcohol on him. Since the team arrived without Gardiner, the Bruins had to play with George Abbott, the practice goalie for the Maple Leafs who happened to be a 47-year old minister that had no pro hockey experience.
He would retire after the season with the Bruins, having played in 144 games, recording 49 wins, 68 losses and 27 ties, along with three shutouts. He wins also one of only four goaltenders, and the second-ever at the time, to win an elimination game in the playoffs after playing no more than one appearance during the regular season.
Following his career he lived in Chicago for several years before moving to California in the 1970s. He would pass away on Aug. 28, 2001 in Los Angeles from a stroke.
He was also an avid tennis player and would wind up in the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, not for hockey, but for tennis.
In the ranking of the worst starting goaltenders for each franchise, Gardiner was chosen as the worst starting goalie for the Boston Bruins franchise by The Sportser.

Information from Legends of Hockey, Blackhawk Legends, Hockey’s Top 100, The Score, The Sportster, the Calgary Daily Herald, Hans Eye On The Prize  and Tales From The Boston Bruins Locker Room.

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