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John Brophy, legendary hockey coach, dead at 83

John Brophy, the long-time hockey coach who spent three years behind the bench for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has passed away at the age of 83, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Brophy coached just like his played: with toughness. One glance at his career playing statistics will show you that he wasn’t one who would back away from a fight. You couldn’t fill out the “PIM” column on his hockey card without using three digits.

Legend has it that Brophy was the inspiration for the Reg Dunlop character played by Paul Neuman in “Slap Shot.” His playing career in the Eastern Hockey League took him from Baltimore to Charlotte to New Haven and to Philadelphia before he settled in for parts of eight seasons with the Long Island Ducks.

How intense did Brophy get at times? Val James, who played under him on Long Island detailed in his book.

From the Toronto Sun:

James tells of the short-fused Brophy getting so incensed at the Sherbrooke AHL team’s effort one day that he smashed a chalkboard over his own head during a dressing room rant and continued to berate the players while covered in white dust, then tearing his sportscoat to shreds.

Toward the end of his career Brophy became a player-coach before moving full-time into the bench boss role. He spent some time in the World Hockey Association before taking on the head coaching role of the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens for three seasons. He would accept the Maple Leafs’ head job in 1986 and took the team to the playoffs in two of his three seasons there.

No matter where he went, Brophy tried to instill his no-nonsense mentality into his teams.

And when things didn’t go his way, Brophy was quite comfortable airing his grievances to the media following games. After one loss in 1988 the head coach let loose a legendary rant that included 72 f-bombs, which was caught on the recorder of Toronto reporter Lance Hornby and detailed in the book “Tales from the Toronto Maple Leafs Locker Room.”

Fired 33 games into his third year in Toronto, Brophy ended up in the East Coast Hockey League with the Hampton Roads Admirals, where he’d spend the next 11 seasons, winning three championships.

When Brophy retired, he was the ECHL’s leader in regular season games coached (882), regular season wins (480) and was given the honor of having the league’s “Coach of the Year” award named after him. He was also inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2009.

Brophy would leave the game of hockey with 1,027 professional coaching wins, second to only Scotty Bowman.

Like I said, he was never one to back away from a fight, whether it was with a player half his age:

Or with a contemporary, like Jacques Demers:

Hockey has had its share of colorful personalities over the years and Brophy was certainly an unforgettable one.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!



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