Rochester Amerks 'humble' legend Dick Gamble dies
by Leo Roth Democrat and Chronicle March 23, 2018
When Jody Gage broke Dick Gamble’s Rochester Americans career scoring record on Feb. 21, 1992, with an assist on a goal by Darcy Loewen for his 566th point, a sellout crowd of 7,300 fans erupted in cheers and began chanting “Jody, Jody.’’
But that’s not what Gage remembers most about that night at the War Memorial, which produced a 2-1 victory over the Binghamton Rangers. It was the fact Gamble was there to congratulate him, handing Gage a silver bowl as a giant “566’’ was lowered from the rafters.
“I was so honored and appreciative that he came that night and I got the chance to meet him and his family,’’ said Gage, who like Gamble wore No. 9. “He was so humble and such a gentleman and we just loved talking hockey. It was truly a great honor to have known Dick for all these years and I really appreciated and cherished the friendship we developed.’’
Mr. Gamble died Thursday evening of congestive heart failure at Strong Memorial Hospital's palliative care unit surrounded by his family.
He was 89.
"We were all by his side holding his hands,'' son Craig Gamble said.
Family members planned on being at Friday's Amerks game at Blue Cross Arena to observe a moment of silence with fans. Services will be a private family "celebration of his great life,'' Craig Gamble said. "He loved Rochester and he loved winning here.''
A native of Moncton, New Brunswick, Mr. Gamble starred for the Amerks for nine seasons during the 1960s, helping the franchise capture three Calder Cups in a span of four seasons under coach Joe Crozier.
This “Golden Era’’ established Rochester as one of the top cities in professional hockey.
A member of the 1952-53 Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup champions, Mr. Gamble had played four seasons for the Buffalo Bisons of the AHL before demanding “pay me or trade me,’’ he said in a 2016 interview.
They traded him and it was the best thing that could’ve happened to Mr. Gamble.
In addition to his success with the Amerks, he married a local girl, raised four children in LeRoy, and spent his retirement years in Pittsford, putting his carpentry skills to use.
“I enjoyed playing here better than anywhere, even Montreal because there was so much pressure in Montreal,’’ Mr. Gamble said in a 2016 interview. “Before expansion, I know our team could’ve beat a couple (NHL) teams every day, give or take. But like everything else, there’s politics in the hockey world. But I enjoyed it here and I’ve been here ever since. It’s a great place to live. What can one say? Here I am.’’
Blessed with great speed and a booming shot off the left wing, Mr. Gamble made scoring look easy.
Some of his best seasons, in fact, took place in his late 30s during Rochester’s Calder Cup run (titles in ’65, ’66 and ’68 and a loss in the finals in ’67). Mr. Gamble led the team in goals three of those years with totals of 48, 47 and 46 and 258 points overall.
His best year was 1965-66 when he scored 47 goals and had a career-high 51 assists for 98 points, earning the AHL’s scoring title and MVP trophy.
“I never saw anybody come off that left wing and fire a puck like he did,’’ said Hockey Night in Canada icon Don Cherry, 84, Gamble’s teammate and fellow Hall of Famer speaking from his home in Mississauga, Ontario.
“Right now he’d be making about $8 million in the National Hockey League. I remember one time in Providence, he cut around the guy and let a shot go and hit the top corner and I swear the net went up about an inch. He was a real goal scorer. He could put the puck in the net boy and could he shoot. I’m sorry to hear he’s gone. He was such a good guy and you could trust him to get 40 for you every year.’’
When Mr. Gamble retired after the 1969-70 season, he was the Amerks' career leader in goals (300), points (565) and games played (569), all marks that Gage would surpass. He also was fifth in assists with 265.
“That’s what records are for,’’ Mr. Gamble said. “To be broken.’’
Dick Gamble, Amerk legend, in an undated photo. (Photo: Staff)
Mr. Gamble, who also served a time as the Amerks coach and general manager, was a member of the team’s inaugural Hall of Fame class of 1986, joining former teammates Bronco Horvath, Norm “Red’’ Armstrong, Al Arbour and Bobby Perreault.
He is one of just seven players who played on all three of Crozier’s Calder Cup winners.
In 1999, the Amerks retired the No. 9 worn by both he and Gage. In 2007, he was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame.
He still ranks fourth in AHL history with 468 goals and 892 points and was voted one of the 10 greatest minor league players ever by the Society for International Hockey Research.
"Dick Gamble will always be remembered as one of hockey's all-time greatest players and a legendary figure in both Buffalo and Rochester,” AHL President and CEO Dave Andrews said. “The entire AHL offers its heartfelt condolences to Dick's family and to the Amerks organization."
Last July, a scuba diver returned Mr. Gamble’s AHL ring that had accidently slipped off son Craig’s finger while swimming in Canandaigua Lake. Dick Gamble hadn’t known it was lost.
Craig Gamble said at the time, “It means a lot to me (to get it back). My dad has been a wonderful man and he’s taught me lot of things in life — right from wrong, resiliency, stick-to-itiveness and to always keep going. This ring represents all those things he taught me as a child.’’
After his 19-year professional hockey career — he was 41 when he retired — Mr. Gamble ran hockey schools in Canada and in Rochester for the old Lions Club. He also enjoyed a long, successful career in sales, including 17 years at Meyer's RV Superstores in Caledonia where he enjoyed talking hockey with customers.
“Many people who watched him play bought from him and loved his laid-back demeanor," said Marcia Gamble, Dick's wife of 45 years.
Amerks legend Dick Gamble (right) receives a hug from former Amerks player Scott Metcalfe after a ceremony celebrating the club's 60th season. (Photo: Jamie Germano/@jgermano1/2016 file photo)
Mr. Gamble, who enjoyed attending Amerks Alumni events later in life, did not completely retire from work until he was 79.
“I enjoyed what I did,’’ he said. “I met a lot of fans who watched me play because they were my vintage (buying motor homes), they were all retired while I was still working. But I enjoyed it.’’
When people would ask Mr. Gamble to recall his favorite hockey career moment, he would hesitate.
“Not really, I just loved to play and loved to win,’’ he said. “When I won the scoring championship I was pretty old so that was an exceptional year for me. But I just loved to play and I played a lot.’’
Almost 1,200 minor league games.
With only six NHL teams during most of his career, which limited opportunities, Mr. Gamble played just 195 NHL games, scoring 41 goals with 41 assists for Montreal, Chicago and Toronto.
Gage, who grew up in the Toronto area, would often hear stories from his father about the Rochester Americans and Dick Gamble, listening to games on the radio.
“It’s still amazing he didn’t spend more time in the NHL,’’ Gage said. “He’s one of those players that could’ve helped my Maple Leafs. I never had the pleasure to see him play but he was a true gentleman.’’
Mr. Gamble is survived by his wife, Marcia, children Richard, Craig, Brent and Darlene, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Remembering Dick Gamble
The Rochester Americans will honor the memory of legend Dick Gamble, who died late Thursday at age 89, with a helmet decal and commemorative patch on players’ jerseys for the remainder of the season. The patch features Gamble’s initials, his iconic No. 9, and three stars for the three Calder Cup teams he was part of in 1965, 1966 and 1968. The jersey patch logo will also be placed in-ice behind both nets.