Selected by the Detroit Red Wings in round three of the 1979 NHL entry draft, 45th overall, Gage was much like the second coming of Bruce Boudreau, a player who utterly dominated at the AHL level for many years but was never able to obtain a firm grasp of keeping a roster spot in the NHL. He was the consummate minor-leaguer.
Gage starred for the Toronto Young Nationals in 1975-76 at the age of 16, scoring 80 points in 53 games. The following season he earned a roster spot on the powerful St. Catharines Fincups of the OMJHL, who had just months earlier claimed the Memorial Cup while playing out of Hamilton. The Fincups dominated the league throughout the season with Gage appearing in 47 games, collecting 13 goals and 33 points in a primarily defensive role. The team, which boasted the likes of junior stars Dale McCourt, Mike Keating, Ric Seiling and Al Secord were heavy favourites to repeat as national champions, but were unexpectedly tripped up in the playoffs. The following year the club moved back to Hamilton, but it was in a rebuilding phase and players like Gage became the leaders. Midway through the year he was traded to the Kitchener Rangers where he played out his junior eligibility through the 1978-79 season.
In 1979-80 Gage began his pro career with the Kalamazoo Wings of the IHL and the Adirondack Red Wings of the AHL. He got his first taste of NHL action in 1980-81 when he was called up to Detroit for 16 games, scoring two goals and four points. He remained in the Red Wings organization for six years. He played 31 games for Detroit in 1981-82, which was the most of any one NHL season. In July, 1985 Gage signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Sabres and although he only played 18 games with Buffalo during his eleven years with the organization, he amassed tremendous statistics playing with their minor-league affiliate in the AHL, the Rochester Americans. In later years it seemed almost more beneficial for Gage not to be called up to the NHL, so as not to interfere with his efforts in chasing down various career records in the AHL. His best offensive season was in 1987-88 when he erupted for 60 goals and 104 points, earning him the second of his three selections to the AHL's First All-Star Team as well as winning the MVP trophy for the year. He also helped the Americans win the Calder Cup in 1987 and 1991. In his 68 NHL games he had 14 goals and 29 points.
It was quite fitting that Gage scored his 504th and final AHL goal against Manny Legace with Gage himself leaving a tremendous legacy in the league. "He was like the Wayne Gretzky of the AHL," offered Richie Dunn, a teammate of Gage's in Rochester. For his part, Gage was extremely thankful that he got to live his dream. "I've been able to play a game that I love and be part of two organizations that treated me with class and respect," Gage reflected.
Courtesy of the Hockey Hall of Fame
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