(Democrat & Chronicle) --- Gary Gavurnik, a scuba diver and hobbyist treasure hunter, said that “95 percent’’ of the stuff he sees on the bottom of lakes and rivers is garbage.
“A lot of pull tabs off cans,’’ said the 48-year-old Auburn resident.
But sometimes, using a sharp eye and beep of a submersible metal detector, you can find real gold. You can make complete strangers overjoyed with the discovery and return of a treasured family heirloom.
Up until three weeks ago, Gavurnik had never heard of Dick Gamble, not until the name of the Rochester Americans legend emerged from the patina as Gavurnik cleaned a ring he retrieved from Canandaigua Lake over the Fourth of July weekend. The ring’s face read: “American Hockey League Hall of Fame.’’
“When I found it, it was just sticking out of the sand a tiny bit and I almost missed it,’’ Gavurnik said. “I said, ‘Boy, that looks like something that could be special.’ It just boggled my mind that I found a Hall of Fame ring in the lake but I knew it belonged to the family and I was more than happy to give it back.’’
That occurred Monday at the Waterlily Day Spa on Monroe Avenue in Brighton, owned by Dick Gamble’s son, Craig. Gamble and his family were surrounded by No. 9 Amerks jerseys and other pieces of memorabilia from Dick’s storied 19-year professional hockey career, nine of them spent with Rochester.
"I think I have something that belongs to you," Gavurnik told Gamble. "In fact, I know it belongs to you because it has your name on it."
The fact that Gamble, 88, a Pittsford resident, never knew his ring was missing made its return even more shocking and worthy of the pages of Ripley’s Believe it or Not!
Where do we begin?
For starters, the ever-humble Gamble isn’t one to boast or to obsess over material things. So, after the gifted left winger was enshrined with the AHL's second Hall of Fame class in 2007, he gave his induction ring to Craig, one of his four children, to wear.
And wear it proudly Craig Gamble did, right up until three years ago when the ring slipped off his hand while he was boating and swimming at the north end of Canandaigua Lake in deep water. The lake is 16 miles long with an average depth of 127 feet.
“The problem was I didn’t realize it right away so I wasn’t really sure exactly where it was,’’ Craig, 52, said. “I was heartbroken and didn’t have the heart to tell my parents I had lost it.’’
Especially after an even more cherished ring from his father’s playing days went missing under his watch during a Gamble family vacation on Canandaigua Lake about 25 years earlier. That ring, featuring three diamond studs, one for each Calder Cup title (1965, ’66, ’68) that Dick Gamble won with Rochester, fell into some duct work at a cottage, never to be seen again after the owners had the duct work replaced.
But this time, Craig Gamble had a solution for the "Curse of Canandaigua.'' He simply got the OK from the AHL to have a replacement Hall of Fame ring made by an approved vendor that he paid for and kept it quiet.
“I had that second ring made and just put it on my hand like nothing ever happened until the day Gary found the ring and everybody came out of the woods figuring that I had probably lost it,’’ said Craig with a priceless guilty grin
Dick Gamble said he never really thought about the ring after he gave it to his son.
“I thought he still had it — until he got a call from his mother,’’ Dick said.
Like any inquisitive mom with a mystery to solve, Marcia Gamble called her son after she received a call from Jody Gage, the Amerks director of strategic planning, telling her that WHEC-TV (Channel 10) sports anchor Rich Donnelly had a report that her husband’s AHL ring was found. Gavurnik solicited the TV station’s help in finding Gamble.
Ring, what lost ring?
“I called Craig right away and said ‘Craig, it’s your mother. Do you have your father’s ring on?’ and he goes ‘Ahhhh, yeah, why?’ ‘’ Marcia Gamble said. “I go, ‘That’s very interesting because a gentleman named Gary, who is a very good scuba diver, happened to find the ring in a very deep part of Canandaigua Lake.’’
Craig was never so happy to be hung out to dry. The ring has always represented his father’s loving messages about hard work and perseverance. To his relief and joy, the lake had given up his secret.
“We couldn’t get mad at him,’’ Marcia said. “Craig adores his father and couldn’t bear to tell him he lost a second ring so he had another one made. He never even told me.’’
A Google search had informed Gavurnik of the Stanley Cup that Dick Gamble won with the Montreal Canadiens in 1952-53 playing with the likes of Rocket Richard and Jean Beliveau. How he became the Amerks’ career leader in games played, goals and points until Gage came along. How their iconic No. 9s were retired in 1999.
The legend of Amerks No. 9
But now he was shaking hands with the man himself. A twist of watery fate that made for a joyous ring reunion topped with a champagne toast.
Gavurnik's good deed was rewarded with an autographed Gamble Amerks jersey and a $500 check to give to a charity of his choice. But the real reward was the heartfelt “thank yous’’ he received.
“I’ve given a lot of rings back in the past that are class rings, other rings and sometimes they are not as appreciated as much as I can see today,’’ he said. “It brings a good warm feeling.’’
It also brought a lot of warm memories back for Dick Gamble, who also coached and was GM of the Amerks for a time. A chance to relive his glory days with the people he loves most and who love him.
“I’m glad Gary returned this and all the family is thankful for him being such a great individual,’’ Dick said. “It means a lot to the family and a lot to me because I can pass it on down.’’
With eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren in the clan, it’s good to have another piece of grandpa’s hockey memorabilia back. As for the duplicate AHL Hall of Fame ring, Craig plans to keep wearing it while keeping the original under lock and key.
“We definitely won’t be swimming in the lake with jewelry any longer,’’ he said.
Of course, now that there is a scuba diver as a new family friend, that might be OK.