Monday

Gus Kyle

When you look at Gus Kyle's career statistics, you might not expect much. He came seemingly out of nowhere, first appearing in the NHL as a 26 year old in 1949. He played the next three seasons, two for New York and one for Boston, before disappearing from the NHL scene.

A less than noteworthy career? Not according to legendary broadcaster Dick Irvin.

In his book Now Back to You Dick: Two Lifetimes in Hockey, Irvin inexplicably described Kyle as one of the rare NHL defenseman that gave the great Maurice "the Rocket" Richard great difficulty.

"The two defensemen The Rocket found the toughest to get around in those days were Frankie Eddoll, an ex-Canadien then with the Rangers, and Gus Kyle, a former Mountie who left the force to play pro hockey," wrote Irvin.

That's true. Kyle had served 5 years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police/amateur hockey star in St. John, New Brunswick. Legend has it he left the force because he wanted to get married, but at the time RCMP forbade marriage before seven years of service. Kyle had other ideas and left the force, heading back to Saskatchewan to play hockey.

Before long his services were sought after by the NHL. He joined the New York Rangers in 1949 as a big, mean defenseman, leading the league in PIMs one season, and finishing second by just one lone minute another year.

Irvin could never quite identify why the 6'1", 200lb defenseman from Dysart, Saskatchewan was so good at shutting down Richard, but he could not help but wonder how history would have changed had Kyle been allowed to keep squaring up against Richard in the playoffs of 1952.

"Kyle was a ploddig type, slow moving but solid, who for some reason had the knack of being able to stop The Rocket more often than not. He was with the Bruins in 1952, but Boston coach Lynn Patrick benched him for the final two games of the series (with Montreal). Kyle normally played left defense along side Bob Armstrong. In game seven, that spot was filled by Bill Quackenbush."

In that game seven Richard scored the most famous goal of his career, and perhaps the most famous goal in hockey history. A bloodied and semi-conscious Richard scores the spectacular winning goal. Afterwards, goaltender Sugar Jim Henry shakes Richard's hand in the ultimate show of respect, as captured in the famous photo.

In his book Irvin added that the coach, Dick Irvin Sr., always wondered how that night might have been different had Kyle been out on the ice.

Kyle would never again play on NHL ice. The following season he would head back to Western Canada, playing four more seasons of hockey with the Calgary Stampeders of the WHL.

Kyle would retire in 1956, but the game would always stay with him. He would turn to coaching, serving as a minor league coach in the Chicago Blackhawks system. Gus and his brother Bill, who also played in the NHL, also operated Kyle Brothers Sporting Goods in Regina and Calgary.

Kyle's coaching gig started in Calgary but saw him move to St. Louis in 1961. He would fall in love with the city, and remain on the hockey scene there until his death.

Kyle coached the CHL's St. Louis Braves until 1966. In 1967 the NHL expanded to St. Louis. Kyle took a sales director's job with the Blues before becoming the long time and much beloved colorman for local broadcasts with the legendary Dan Kelly.

Kyle died of heart disease in 1996. He was 75 years old.

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