By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter! @andrewlindrothh
Cal Gardner was born on October 0th, 1924, in Transcona, Manitoba, Canada. Cal began playing juniors as a 17-year-old forward in the WJrHL for the Winnipeg CUAC and the Winnipeg Esquires from 1941-1943. In his final year of junior hockey, he joined the TBSHL and suited up for the Port Arthur Navy from 1943-1944, and showcased as one of the top forwards in the league, scoring 18 goals and 42 points in just ten games.
He went on to sign his first pro hockey contract with the New York Rangers organization in 1945. The 21-year-old centremen were assigned to start the season with their minor-pro affiliate, the New York Rovers (EAHL), and dominated with a stunning 41 goals and 72 points in only 40 contests. His strong performance earned his first National Hockey League action as he was called up to play for the New York Rangers in 1946 and finished the season with eight goals in his first 16 appearances.
Over the next two seasons, the 6’1, 172-pound forward served a bottom-six role and found mediocre success but was not reaching his potential as a player with the New York Rangers, recording just 20 goals and 54 points in 114 games. However, his direction quickly turned on April 26th, 1948, when the New York Rangers traded Cal Gardner to the Toronto Maple Leafs and players Bill Juzda and Frank Mathers in exchange for Moe Morris and Wally Stanowski.
The 24-year-old went on to have his best campaign yet, recording 13 goals and 35 points, and netting his first handful of playoff points (2-5-7 statline). Cal Gardner and the Toronto Maple Leafs went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1949.
The following season, Cal dealt with a plague of injuries throughout the year and was limited to just 31 appearances, and the Toronto Maple Leafs failed to win the Stanley Cup that year. But, bound determined, the forward came back healthier the following campaign and had a career-high offensive year, notching 23 goals and 51 points in 66 games. Cal and the Maple Leafs went on to capture their second Stanley Cup in three years in 1951.
Cal went on to play one more season in a Maple Leaf’s jersey, suiting up for all 70 games during the 1951-1952 season and contributing 15 goals and 41 points. On September 11th, 1951, Cal Gardner was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks with players Ray Hannigan, Gus Mortson, and Rene Trudell in exchange for Harry Lumley. The forward suited up for the Blackhawks for just one season before his tenure quickly game to ca close when he was traded to the Boston Bruins on June 26th, 1956, in exchange for cash.
Cal served a significant role as a middle-six forward-center for the Boston Bruins over the next four years of his career. His best year with the Bruins was during the 1954-1955 campaign when he recorded 16 goals and 38 points, not too far off from his point and goal totals compared to his other three seasons with the Boston Bruins. Cal helped lead the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final during his final year with the team in 1957 but failed to clinch the ultimate title.
After his contract with the Bruins expired in the off-season, both the team and player mutually agreed to part ways, and the 32-year-old was set to hit free agency for the first time in his pro career. However, Cal failed to find an NHL team to use his services, so he found a home with the Springfield Indians (AHL) for the 1957-1958 season. He continued to play minor-pro hockey in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the Eastern Professional Hockey League (EPHL) from 1957-1961 and was a point-per-game player or more in each of those seasons. He retired from the hockey world in 1961.
During his 12-year NHL tenure, Cal contributed 154 goals and 92 points in 696 NHL appearances, while winning two Stanley Cup championships with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1949 and 1951. Cal Gardner passed away on October 10th, 2001 at the age of 76.