Photo credit: @Capitals
Over the last decade or so, the Washington Capitals have had a number of different players don the sweater number, “23”, with names like Milan Jurcina, Scott Hannan, and Dmitrij Jaskin dotting the lineup. In this latest Capitals Alumni Profile, NoVa Caps’ Diane Doyle takes a look back at one of the more historical figures in Capitals franchise history to don the number.
Early Life and Career
Robert Alexander “Bobby” Gould was born on September 2, 1957 in Petrolia, Ontario. For the 1974-75 season, he played junior hockey with his hometown team Petrolia Jets in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL), after which time he played four seasons with the University of New Hampshire (1975-76, 1976-77, 1977-78, and 1978-79). He increased his overall point total each year and scored over 20 goals in each of his last three seasons, with 31 goals during his senior year. In each of his college seasons, he had goal totals of 13, 24, 23, and 31 and overall point totals of 27, 49, 57, and 59. In 1977, he was drafted by both the Atlanta Flames of the NHL with the 118th overall pick (seventh-round) and the Calgary Cowboys of the World Hockey Association (WHA) in the eighth-round, with the 70th pick overall.
Professional Career Prior to the Capitals
After finishing college, he played in five games for the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League (CHL), scoring two goals. During 1979-80, he played for the Birmingham Bulls, scoring 27 goals and recording 33 assists, and appeared in one game for the Flames. He returned to the Bulls to start the 1980-81 season and scored 25 goals, but the franchise folded on February 24, 1981. As a result, he ended the season with the Fort Worth Texans, adding eight more goals to his total; that season he appeared in three games for the Flames, who by this time had relocated to Calgary. In 1981-82, he appeared in one game for the Texans and was recalled to the Flames for 16 games, scoring three goals. On November 25, 1981, the Flames traded Gould and Randy Holt to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Pat Ribble and a 1983 draft pick.
Washington Capitals Career
The trade to Washington was the opportunity Gould needed for establishing a career in the NHL. He found a regular role on the team and scored 18 goals, to go along with 13 assists for 31 points overall in 60 games in 1981-82. In total, he had scored 21 goals overall in his rookie year of 1981-82, and was the first recipient of the Capitals’ “Unsung Hero” award. The next season, Gould was part of the first Capitals team to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, scoring 22 goals and recording 18 assists for 40 points overall in the process. He also scored two goals in the Caps’ very first playoff game, which they lost to the New York Islanders en route to losing the series. The 1983-84 season was another strong one for Gould, during which he scored 21 goals and added 19 assists for 40 points overall, with one particularly memorable game against the Winnipeg Jets on October 30, 1983.
The 1984-85 season was not as strong a campaign for Gould, as it saw him score only 14 goals and record 19 assists in addition to low ice time. Before the 1985-86 season, then-Head Coach Bryan Murray elevated the struggling Gould and fellow forward Mike Gartner to the role of Alternate Captain. He also learned how to play the center position that season, as the Caps were very strong at right wing, with Gartner, Dave Christian, and Craig Laughlin manning the right side. Gould proved to be great defensively and usually saw time on the penalty kill, but as a result of his career-high goal output sitting at 21 goals, he could not find a role on the top two lines. Gould saw time at center on the fourth-line alongside Lou Franceschetti and Ed Kastelic, but would be moved to wing on other lines as needed. He ended the season with 19 goals and 19 assists. In 1986-87, he posted career-highs in both goals and assistis with 23 and 27, respectively. That same season, he fought Mario Lemieux and scored two goals in a game on March 20, 1987, one in which the Capitals beat the Penguins, 5-4.
Gould started off the 1987-88 season with a broken foot, missing the first several games, and did not have as good a season as ones past, scoring 12 goals and recording 14 assists. The 1988-89 season was even worse, as he scored just five goals and had 13 assists, in what would prove to be his last season with the Caps. Gould was traded to the Boston Bruins immediately prior to the 1989-90 season for Alain Cote. Prior to the trade, he had the most service time of any NHL player.
Gould ended his Capitals career having played in 600 games, scoring 134 games, recording 142 assists, and 276 total points. The Caps made the playoffs in six out of the seven years in which he played for the team. At the time of his departure, he was in the team’s Top 10 for career goals for the franchise.
Gould later talked about his tenure with the Caps, saying, “One of my favorite moments was when the Capitals first reached the playoffs. We lost to the Islanders, but the fans finally had the opportunity to see a playoff game. It was really exciting.”
At the time of his departure, Head Coach Bryan Murray praised him, calling him “one of my favorite guys. He was a hard-working guy who used the talent he had to the ultimate. His character, work ethic, the role he played checking and penalty killing, made him a valuable member of this team. Most important he was a great guy who came to play every night. People like that are hard to let go. But we want to get some young blood in and Boston was interested and will give him a chance to play.”
Gould scored eight goals and had 17 assists for the Boston Bruins for the 1989-90 season, a year in which they advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost. Ironically enough, the Bruins advanced to the Finals by knocking out the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Finals. Prior to the season, the Caps had traded him, feeling they needed to make changes since the team had not advanced past the second round of the playoffs. That season was his last in the NHL, and he ended his career having played 697 games, scored 145 goals, recorded 159 assists, and reached 304 total points.
During the 1990-91, he played for the Maine Mariners in the American Hockey League, serving as both player and assistant coach. After that season, he retired from professional hockey. He and his wife, Janice, returned to Ontario with their three children.
Gould also served as Assistant Coach and Assistant General Manager for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons. He also has been a teacher and an active farmer.
By Diane Doyle
See Other Alumni Profiles HERE
Wash Post: Game vs Winnipeg Jets 10/31/1983
Wash Post: Gould Has Lesson to Learn — 12/17/1985
Wash Post: Lemieux Beaten to Punch: 3/20/1987
Wash Post: Bob Gould Traded to Bruins
NHL Com: Capitals: Where Are They Now — Bob Gould
See-Saw Fight in Landover – Retro Recap: Washington Capitals vs Philadelphia Flyers – March 23, 1986
Bryan Murray and the Washington Capitals’ 1982-1983 Season
Hockey Draft Central Profile: Bob Gould
Elite Prospects: Bob Gould