Monday, June 20, 2011

Absurd Goalie Monday: Andy Aitkenhead

While we have finished yet another season, we turn this week's AGM to probably one of the most under-appreciated goalie to ever win a Stanley Cup. While he hailed from Glasgow, Scotland; he was one of those from the British Dominions to move to Canada and really take a liking to the Canadian game. He had a great start to his career, but it didn't last-- but when does it ever in this feature?? This week, the profile of Andy Aitkenhead.

Aitkenhead moved over from Scotland with his family and settled in Saskatoon, where he would play his amateur career there. Int he 1921-22 and 1922-23 season, Aitkenhead played with the Yorkton Terriers, Saskatoon St. George, Saskatoon Quakers. He would make an appearance in the Memorial Cup play-down tournament with the Quakers in 1923. Aitkenhead would turn semi-pro locally for the 1923-24 season, playing for the Saskatoon Nationals and Saskatoon Empires, leading both to the Allan Cup tournament (Nationals in 1924 and Empires in 1926)-- but not making it to the finals.

Aitkenhead would then move onto the Prairie Hockey League in the 1926-27 seasons with the Saskatoon Sheiks. That first season, Aitkenhead would play in 32 games while going 14-15-3, with half his wins coming by way of shutout; as well as going 1-3 in the playoffs. Staying with the Sheiks for the 1927-28 season, Aitkenhead would go 18-5-5 in 28 games, with seven more shutouts to his name.

However, Aitkenhead would be taken out of Saskatoon and Canada entirely, as he was picked up by the New York Rangers in the Inter-League Draft in 1928; but Aitkenhead would be playing for the Springfield Indians of the Can-Am League in the 1928-29 season. In the 40 games he played, Aitkenhead had a 13-14-13 record with six shutouts.

The Rangers didn't have room for Aitkenhead, so they dealt him to the Portland Buckaroos of the Pacific Coast League for cash before the 1929-30 season. Aitkenhead had an amazing first year in Portland, going 20-10-6 in 36 games with 16 shutouts to his name. However, he only went 1-3 in four playoff games. The little slump continued in the 1930-31 seaosn in Portland, with Aitkenhead having a 12-15-8 record in 35 games, even with six shutouts.

After that season was through, Aitkenhead was headed back to New York, as Portland traded him back to the Rangers for cash. The 1931-32 season had Aitkenhead playing with the Bronx Tigers of the Can-Am League, going 16-13-4 in 33 games with four shutouts, then 0-1-1 (yes, a tie) in four playoff games.

Aitkenhead would finally get his chance in the big time, as he was named the starting goalie for the Rangers in the 1932-33 season and made the most of it. Aitkenhead would go 23-17-8 in 48 games with three shutouts. Then, in the playoffs-- Aitkenhead went 6-1-1 in the playoffs, with two shutouts, helping the Rangers win the Stanley Cup. The follow-up season was a bit of a struggle for Aitkenhead, going 21-19-8 in the 1933-34 season, but also recording seven shutouts. Yet, there were growing concerns about Aitkenhead's mental state; which is why the Rangers went out to get Dave Kerr-- relegating Aitkenhead to ten games in the 1934-35 season with the Rangers with a 3-7-0 record. Aitkenhead was sent to down to the Can-Am League with the Philadelphia Arrows, winning the only game that he played in.

The Rangers didn't have room for Aitkenhead, so he was sent back out west, back to the Portland Buckaroos for the 1935-36 season. In that season, Aitkenhead would go 11-4-6 with five shutouts, but then 1-2 in the playoffs. While Aitkenhead got more games (40), he didn't fare too well in the season, only going 18-14-8, while going 1-2 in the playoffs again. Yet, it was a great bounce back year in the 1936-37 season, having Aitkenhead going 22-13-5 with seven shutouts; then going 3-0 in the playoffs, helping Portland win the Pacific Coast League title. That same year, Aitkenhead also played in a game with the Spokane Clippers as a fill-in and won that game as well.

The 1937-38 season had Aitkenhead still with the Buckaroos, yet would finish the 16-18-8 record in 42 games, then going 1-1 in the playoffs. However, like seems to happen, Aitkenhead bounced back in the 1938-39 season, with a remarkable 31-9-8 record with nine shutouts and then going 4-1 in the playoffs, helping Portland to yet another PCHL championship. In another odd moment, Aitkenhead filled in for a game with the Seattle Seahawks of the PCHL, but didn't get a decision. As seems to the be norm, Aitkenhead slumped in the post-championship season of 1939-40, going 17-18-5 in 40 games, then 1-4 in the playoffs. Aitkenhead would get on more game in for Portland in the 1940-41 season, which was a win. Aitkenhead would hang-up the pads after that.

While not many knew what happened after his playing career and before his death in 1968, the Glasgow Gobbler (as he was known) had a heck of a career and did have plenty of accolades to his name. Yet, you have to wonder if his mental game was something that was not only a help, but a hindrance as well-- which could be a reason he was sent back to Portland that final time. Either way, it took him a while to get out in the hockey world, but his short time impacted the landscape-- not only for the Rangers, but also in Oregon; where he was named to the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.

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