Monday, May 28, 2012

Absurd Goalie Monday: Wayne Rutledge

As we get ready for the Stanley Cup Finals, we look at one goalie who has a strong connection with one of the teams and you could say he started the ball rolling with gathering their first win in their first game in their first season. While he wasn't around long, he cemented his spot in a short time. This week, the profile of Wayne Rutledge.

Rutledge started his venture to notoriety playing in Junior "C" with the Newmarket Flyers for the 1958-59 season, but moving onto the Junior "A" ranks with the Barrie Flyers in the 1959-60 season, putting up a 24-18-6 record in 48 games. The Flyers would move to Niagara Falls in the 1960-61 season, appearing in 47 games with a 22-20-5 record, while playing in 43 games in 1961-62 with the Flyers, but no record is given.

In the 1962-63 season, Rutledge turned semi-pro-- bouncing around a couple of leagues with the Clinton Comets in the Eastern League for five games, then four games for the Kingston Frontnacs of the Eastern Professional League (3-1-0) before settling down with the Windsor Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey Association Senior league, playing in 30 games and helping the Bulldogs to the Allan Cup Championship as best Senior League team in all of Canada. Rutledge would play 65 games for the Bulldogs in the International League, but there's no record on record.

Rutledge settled in the Central Professional League, even though he may have been bumped around for a couple team. He started in the 1964-65 with the St. Paul Rangers, where he would compile a 22-16-1 record in 39 games. As the team rebranded as the Minnesota Rangers in 1965-66; Rutledge found his niche, putting up a 34-25-11 record in 70 games, leading the league in shutouts with seven and would be named to the Second All-Star Team, as well as have the fewest goals-against for the season. The New York Rangers had a deal in place for Rutledge and would place him with the Omaha Knights in the 1966-67 season, going 36-24-10 in 70 games, garnering First All-Star Team honors for his efforts.

The Rangers left Rutledge unprotected for the 1967 Expansion Draft, where he'd be picked up by the Los Angeles Kings. Rutledge would split time with the legendary goalie Terry Sawchuk that 1967-68 season and put up a 20-18-4 record in 45 games (and 1-1 in three playoff games), including starting and winning the first game in the Kings history on October 14th, 1967-- a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers and first shutout in December of 1967 over the St. Louis Blues. The 1968-69 season saw Rutledge struggle, playing in only 17 games with a 6-7-4 record (1-3 in five playoff games), while he only appeared in 20 games in the 1969-70 season, going 2-10-1; while also making stops in AHL with the Springfield Kings for six games and the Eastern League with the Long Island Ducks for three games. The Kings placed Rutledge in the Western League for the 1970-71 season with the Denver Spurs where he would put up a 15-18-12 record in 47 games.

During the Reverse Draft, the Salt Lake Golden Eagles picked up Rutledge from the Kings where he would play the 1971-72 season-- playing 60 games with a 24-27-8 record, which was enough for Second All-Star Team honors in the Western League.

Rutledge was drafted by the Houston Aeros in the 1972 WHA Draft and would move to the WHA for the 1972-73 season, posting a 20-14-2 record in 36 games, while posting a 3-4 playoff record. Though he put up only a 12-12-1 record for the Aeros in the 1973-74 season, Rutledge was along for the ride as the Aeros won the Avco World Cup for WHA Champions. The playing time bounced back for Rutledge in the 1974-75 season; going 20-15-0 in 30 appearance, then going 14-10-0 in 24 games and 1-2 in the playoffs during the 1975-76 season. Rutledge finally got a decent chunk of time during the 1976-77 season, playing 42 games and putting together a 23-14-4 record, but would see his time drop in the 1977-78 season-- playing in only 12 games and finishing off with a 4-7-0 record.

Rutledge would leave the Aeros for the OHA with the Orillia Terriers, where he would play in 17 games before hanging up the pads for good.

Sadly, in October of 2004, Rutledge would pass away due to stomach cancer at the age of 62.

It took a while for Rutledge to get into the NHL, including a couple of off-the-map stops, but thanks to expansion-- he was able to get his shot and seal his spot in the history of an organization. When the expansion team showed their real colors, he moved to another league and tried to dazzle as much as he could. He stuck it out and made the most of this time out there.


Anonymous said...

Ive been a Kings fan since the day Gretzky got traded from the Oilers. I live in Southern Ontario and it is my dream to go see game 4. Tickets seems either very difficult or really pricey thru ticket sites. Was was excited when i scoored Kings tickets but the Rangers just tied it up So if i do end up going to L.A. I want to party with some die hard Kings fans .

Paul Shallenberger said...

Interesting article on Mr. Rutledge- thanks for posting.
What I find intriguing is that it appears he was property of the Boston Bruins by playing for their junior affiliates (Barrie/Niagara Falls Flyers) for three seasons (1959-62). That means he most likely signed a C-form with the Bruins as a teenager. To get out of such a contract one had to sit out an entire season and only play in a non NHL affiliation league, which he did (1962-64). I think the New York Rangers then signed him as a "free agent" and he played for three Rangers minor league teams (1964-67) before being the last goalie selected in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft.

Unknown said...

I have his game used pads blocker and ketcher I lived next to him and after he passed I got them from a yard sail his wife had of his stuff

Ross Duncan said...

I was a high school friend and neighbour of both Wayne and Marvin Rutledge when they lived in Cookstown, Ontario. It is disappointing to see his items being sold at a garage sale thought the family would have kept these in memory of. Strange world isn't it.

Ross Duncan