Saturday, August 16, 2014

John Brophy, A Mean Son-of-a-Gun

John Brophy was head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs for two and a half seasons in the late 1980's. He had been a hard-playing defenceman in the old Eastern Hockey league from 1955 through 1973. Playing in cities from Baltimore and Charlotte to New Haven, Long Island and Philadelphia he collected 3699 PIM's in 1064 games. Brophy began a role as playing coach in 1968 while with the Long Island Ducks. 

He was suspended and fined over his career many times for transgressions including; "attempts to assault referee", "physically abusing referee", "deliberately shooting puck at referee", "jabbed stick at fan after fan bit him", "pushing linesman during fight", "pushing referee to the ice", "throwing stick at referee", "throwing object at referee". Needless to say, he had anger issues. 

When he finally got his chance at an NHL coaching job, his attitude did not change. He guided the Leafs to a 70 point season in 86/87 and upset St. Louis in the first round of the playoffs before losing in seven to Detroit. The following year he coached one of the worst teams to ever qualify for the NHL playoffs when his Leafs 52 points beat out Minnesota by one point in the Norris Division. He would be replaced by George Armstrong 33 games into the next season with a record of 11-20-2.

I stumbled upon this gem of a description of one of Brophy's Maple Leaf practices from 1986. It's written by the Canadian Press and published November 26, 1986 before a big game in Detroit against the hated Red Wings. 

Head coach John Brophy laid the lumber on his players yesterday to emphasize that he expects them to play a tough, physical brand of hockey against the Red Wings in Detroit tonight. The last time the teams played, Nov. 15, fights and brawls led to four player ejections and 290 penalty minutes.

"I hope we play physically; we certainly intend to," Brophy said following a practice session during which he played defence, chopping and hacking to demonstrate the kind of aggressive hockey he expects from his players. "I don't see any other way we can win in there. They've been waiting for this one."
Standing in the slot during practice, Brophy's stick came up and probed the gut of Chris Kotsopoulos. Then the point of his stick blade found the back of Jerome Dupont's knee. Brophy hammered the shaft of his stick down on the shoulder of Val James, then swept the skates out from under him twice.

"You either win in here (the slot), or you lose your job," Brophy announced to his defencemen." "Obviously, you have to be discreet about it, but you have to stay between the net and the puck. You don't run around slashing and poking people, but you do things off the shot."

Video of the actual practice in question is here:

Just imagine a coach in today's game hacking and slashing his millionaire players during practice. Incidentally, Toronto beat Detroit that night by a score of 3-1. There were five fights and three game misconducts in the game.
Brophy in his playing days with Philadelphia Ramblers

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