If nothing else, this week's AGM showed that there was such thing as a Reverse Draft, which is something that happened from 1966 to 1975, in which players could get picked off from teams rosters if they were left unprotected. Almost a primitive Expansion Draft. Even so, this goalie goes with the formula of having a couple good seasons in the minors, then having a nice lead-in when he came into the league, but fizzled out before he could do anything substantial. This week, we look at Curt Ridley.
Ridley started off with the Portage Terriers in the Manitoba Junior League, playing 78 games in two years, putting up five shutouts in that time frame and 3.59 GAA in those two years. Apparently, Ridley got a reputation for hacking at the ankles and legs of opposing players, riling up the opposing fans so much, they would start to throw stuff at him during the game. In his second year, Ridley got a call up to the Brandon Wheat Kings for five games with a 2.81 GAA. His performance was good enough for the Boston Bruins to draft him in the second round of the 1971 Draft.
The Bruins placed Ridley in the Central League for the 1971-72 season with the Oklahoma City Blazers. It was a rough first year for Ridley, going 12-18-4 in the 41 games he played in, losing the only playoff game he played in. The 1972-73 season saw Ridley head to the IHL with the Dayton Gems, playing 56 games with a 2.70 GAA, despite a knee injury he suffered during the season. He also went 3-3 in the playoffs with the Gems and would get a call-up to the AHL Boston Braves for the playoffs, but would go 0-3. With many goalies in their system, the Bruins thought they would take a chance with leaving Ridley unprotected, not thinking anyone would need a goalie.
However, for the 1973 Reverse Draft, the New York Rangers plucked Ridley off the Bruins roster and would send him to the AHL's Providence Reds. With the Reds in 1973-74, Ridley came into his own going 19-11-6 in 39 games for the Reds. Ridley would get the starting role in the 1974-75 with the Reds, playing in 57 games with a spectacular 32-14-9 with a 3.27 GAA, but only went 2-4 in six playoff games. Ridley would get a call-up to the Rangers, playing in two games, going 1-1-0 in his games with the big club.
His time in New York didn't last long as the Rangers traded Ridley to the Atlanta Flames for Jerry Byers in September 1975. Ridley would be assigned to the Tulsa Oilers of the CHL and would play there for 30 games going 15-10-5 with two shutouts. Ridley's play got noticed, as he would be traded by the Flames to the Vancouver Canucks in January of 1976 for the Canucks first round choice in the 1976 Draft. As an aside, though he left Tulsa early, he won the Terry Sawchuk Award for fewest goals-against.
Ridley got the call-up to the big club immediately and did an amazing job in his nine games with Vancouver, going 6-0-2 with a 2.28 GAA, which was promising to the Canucks brass. It was a promising sign, but the 1976-77 season didn't being much fortune with that quick start. Ridley was battling Cesare Maniago, but didn't fare well with a 8-21-4 record. The 1977-78 record was more of the same, as Ridley would improve slightly with a 9-17-8 record in 40 games. The Canucks sent Ridley down to the Dallas Black Hawks of the Central League for the 1978-79 season, where it seemed that Ridley was able to gain his confidence back. Ridley would post a record of 22-10-0 in 32 games, going 8-1 in the playoff to help the Hawks win the Adams Cup championship. Ridley would also take home the Max McNab Trophy for Playoff MVP. Ridley would start the 1979-80 season with the Hawks, going 0-4-0 in his four games; but would still get a call-up to the Canucks for 10 games, in which he would go 2-6-2.
Even so, Ridley had some interest as the Canucks traded Ridley to the Toronto Maple Leafs for cash in February of 1980. He would only play three games with the Leafs and go 0-1-1, as he broke his hand in his third game in. The 1980-81 season saw Ridley go to the AHL and play with the New Brunswick Hawks for two games with a 1-1-0 record, with a three game call-up to the Leafs with the same 1-1-0 record.
After not being re-signed by the Leafs, Ridley would sign back in the Central League with the Cincinnati Tigers as one last kick-of-the-can. He would regain some kind of stellar play, going 10-6-1 in 22 games, while losing his own game in the playoffs. Ridley would hang up the pads after that 1981-82 season.
Ridley now resides in the Dallas area, and while he was antagonist in the net; he could never string together much in the NHL when he had his time; whether it was to being pushed out, the team in front of him, or just not being able to get up to the speed of the NHL-- it never gelled for Ridley. If nothing else, he did have a memorable mask (as seen in the picture) which coincided with the "stick-in-rink" logo that the Canucks had. So, at least he'll always have that.