5FW Originals: Bathgate Legacy Lives On In Guelph

Andy Bathgate, grandson of the NHL legend with the same name, is continuing his career with the University of Guelph (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

For a while, Andy Bathgate thought it was a curse.

Thanks to some constant chirping from opponents in his younger days, the grandson of the NHL icon with the same name didn’t necessarily have the appreciation for the eight letters that sat on top of the number on his jersey as he should have.

“I really didn’t know much about my grandfather when I was growing up and was six, seven, eight years old; I was just a young kid playing hockey,” Bathgate told The Trentonian.

“But looking back now, I don’t know why I felt like that, it’s definitely a blessing. Not only has it got me to places where I want to be, but I just take such pride in having the name. It’s a blessing for sure.”

Unfortunately, the blessing hasn’t translated onto the ice as often as the younger Bathgate would like. Selected in the fifth round of the 2009 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Bathgate’s rights were relinquished following the 2010-11 season due to a shoulder injury that limited him.

“Andy Bathgate hasn’t played much hockey for a while,” Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“You look at his numbers and say, ‘Well, geez, he should be doing this or that. He’s a first-line center.’ But he hasn’t played much hockey. He’s a tough kid to protect because of the lack of games he’s played over the last 2 1/2 years because of his shoulder injury.”

The past few years have been somewhat of a roller coaster ride for Bathgate, who played for both Plymouth and Belleville in the OHL with a two-game stint with Wilkes-Barre Scranton of the AHL mixed in. This year, he’s playing university hockey with the Guelph Gryphons while putting thoughts of a pro career on hold.

“It’s been hectic to say the least,” Bathgate said. “It’s been a whirlwind. You don’t really know where you’re going the next year. I just kind of keep doing my thing, train in the summer and wherever I end up, I just try to play my game.”

Still just 21 years old, Bathgate still very much so has aspirations of pro career, which he got a taste of during those two games in 2010-11. It was, he says, “the best experience of my life.”

“It was one of the best months and a half of my entire life, for sure,” Bathgate said.

“Just down from the coaching staff to the guys to the training facility to the playoff run, it was something I’ll never forget and something I’m striving towards again.”

Once the Penguins let him go, Bathgate was sent back into the draft pool, but says that given it was his fourth year, that he wasn’t necessarily looking to get picked again, hoping to keep his options open for all 30 teams instead of being limited to just one. As such, Bathgate was given the opportunity to put himself on the radar of the same team where his famous grandfather spent the majority of his career: The New York Rangers.

Andy Bathgate’s #9 — alongside Harry Howell’s #3 — is raised to the Madison Square Garden rafters in February, 2009 (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Bathgate was invited to their prospect camp this summer, playing in the shadow of his grandfather’s retired number 9, which the Rangers sent to the rafters in a 2009 ceremony.

“If you think I got asked questions before, I certainly got some questions about grandpa there,” Bathgate said through a laugh.

“It was fun, though. It was a great experience, it helped me as a hockey player for sure. I went in and I wasn’t in the best hockey shape I wanted to be, they called me the day after the draft and it was just kind of a whirlwind. I headed home from my girlfriend’s house and jumped on a plane, so I didn’t really perform the way I wanted to, but I think I left an impression there that they’ll take a look at me.”

Although there were likely pro options for Bathgate to pursue, he instead chose to further his education with Guelph, putting off officially starting his career for now. Just not forever.

“This isn’t the end. I’m here, I’m playing hockey and I’m ready to take my career further from here,” he said.

“The decision happened really late. With the NHL lockout and everything that happened, it was really tough. It was a summer full of phone calls and e-mails and stuff. But I’m really happy about the decision. I got a lot of money from the OHL, and nowadays you can’t go anywhere without an education. Again, there’s always life after hockey. With the opportunity to go to a great school in Guelph and play hockey at the same time, I’d might as well.”

Bathgate said that he’s not going to give up the goal of playing professional hockey on a full-time basis, saying that he’ll keep playing until he can’t play anymore; whether that’s when he’s 25 years old or when he’s 40.

And it was also evident that he’s embraced the legacy that comes with his name as well. About an hour after the Gryphons beat the Princeton Tigers in an exhibition game, Bathgate boarded a train with the rest of his teammates. Clad in street clothes and an Oakland A’s hat, he was able to anonymously enjoy the ride, free of any chirps or curiosity that came with his name.

That train’s destination, by the way?

New York.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com


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