By David Salter
Want to stump your buddies with some hockey trivia? Let them try this one on for size. Name the two goalies who played on the same team in the Newfoundland Senior League and went on to perform with the same NHL franchise.
The answer: Gary ‘Cobra’ Simmons and Lyle Carter, who backstopped the Conception Bay CeeBees in the 1967 Allan Cup playoffs, emblematic of national senior hockey supremacy. The duo later went on to play for the now-defunct California Golden Seals – albeit in different seasons.
Simmons – who would also skate with the Los Angeles Kings – was the CeeBees starting goaltender in 1966-67. However, in Allan Cup play, the CeeBees were permitted to add a handful of players from other NSHL teams and plucked Carter from the Gander Flyers. The CeeBees lost the Atlantic Allan Cup playdowns to the Moncton Hawks three games to one, with Carter playing in a pair of games and posting a loss.
Now 67, Carter writes a pair of columns each week for the Truro Daily News in his native Nova Scotia and has fond memories of his time in Newfoundland. “The people in Newfoundland are the friendliest in the world,” says Carter, who also played for Buchans in the NSHL. “The checks came on time and there were always invites extended from people for moose suppers. Another thing was the excellent level of hockey. It was comparable to what I later saw in the minor leagues.”
Carter says Simmons never regarded him as a threat when the former joined the CeeBees. “It was known Gary was the starter and I was only going to play if he got hurt or something,” Carter says. “He was a real nice guy and we both had the same dream and wished each other well.”
The dream, of course, was to play in the NHL. It would come true for Carter first.
During Carter’s time in Newfoundland, Montreal Canadiens GM Sam Pollock kept close tabs on the Bluenoser. After stints with various Habs’ minor league affiliates, starting in 1967-68, Carter was dealt to the Seals in 1971.
The Seals, based in Oakland, were the laughing stock of the NHL, but gave Carter a great opportunity to play in the big leagues. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder recalls the Seals won five of his first six starts as he recorded four wins. However, in his 14th game, Carter was victimized by sharp-shooting Buffalo Sabre Rick Martin of the fabled French Connection Line. “Martin fired a slapshot that hit me under the belly pad and I tore some rib cartilage,” Carter says. “I was out for three weeks and in my first game back I tore it open again. The Seals sent me to the minors to get back in shape and I never got back (to the NHL).”
Carter would come close in 1973 with the Minnesota North Stars. He dressed once as a backup for Hall of Famer Gump Worsley, but did not play. Regardless, Carter considers it a career highlight. “Gump Worsley was someone I idolized as a kid growing up and to be on the same team as him was a thrill,” says Carter, whose post-hockey careers included running a popular sporting goods store and a radiator and automotive repair business. “I’ll never forget, Gump and I went out for a cup of coffee before the game, which Gump was scheduled to start. But he asked me, ‘Do you want to play tonight? I’m finishing my career. This game would mean more to you than me.’ I couldn’t believe it. Of course I said yes.
“But later at the rink, outside the dressing room, Gump told (coach) Parker MacDonald about his offer. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I saw Parker waving his arms in the air. I never played that night. We tied the New York Islanders 1-1 and I remember Gump got beat on the glove side. I often think I might have made that save and we would have won.”
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