In their fifth season of existence, the scrappy Philadelphia Flyers were clawing their way up the ladder in the then -West Division standings. On February 8, 1972, they set out on a five-game road trip, starting in Vancouver to play the Canucks. In goal that evening was Bruce Gamble, a 33-year-old veteran who had almost 300 NHL games under his belt at the time of the game. Bruce came to the Flyers from Toronto in a multi-player trade a year prior that sent a young Bernie Parent north of the border (just for a short time, of course). Bruce had been playing well and the Flyers looked to start the trip off on a positive note.
Bobby Clarke had a power play goal in the first period and added another goal in the third, and the Flyers earned a tough 3-1 win. Bruce played very well, stopping 30 of 31 Vancouver shots. It was a good start to the road trip that now headed south to Oakland to face the California Golden Seals.
Once the team arrived in Oakland, Bruce complained of chest pains and was admitted to an area hospital. After examination, it was discovered that Bruce had suffered a heart attack, which actually occurred the night before during the Canucks game. He miraculously played through the game, leading the Flyers to victory. His heart attack ended his season and also his career as an NHL netminder.
On December 29, 1982, some ten years after his retirement, Bruce was practicing with the Niagara Falls Flames, an ‘old timers’ team. Just hours after that practice, he again complained of chest pains. He was taken to an area hospital in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where he passed from another heart attack at the young age of 44.
Bruce’s career spanned 12 seasons in where he played in 327 games at the NHL level with the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Flyers. He was infamous for refusing an assignment to the minors by Boston Bruins coach Eddie Shore in 1964, thus being suspended for an entire year. In 1965, he got his wish to play and was traded to Toronto. As a Leaf, his game improved and he earned a selection to the 1968 All Star Game, in which he won the game’s MVP award. He recorded 110 wins in the NHL, ten of those with the orange and black, and he certainly made his last Flyers win a memorable one.