Former Leafs Coach John Brophy Dies at 83 Due to an Illness
John Brophy, former coach for the Toronto Leafs of 2 1/2 seasons, has passed away Monday morning in his sleep at a nursing home in his hometown of Antigonish, N.S., due to a lengthy illness at 83 years of age.
Brophy, who was from Nova Scotia, served as an assistant before becoming head coach of the Leafs for the 1986-87 season, leading the team to the second round of the playoffs prior to being fired during the 1988-89 season after just 33 games. He went on to coach the ECHL’s Hampton Road’s Admirals in 1989-90 and led the team to three league titles over the course of 11 seasons. He then took a season off from coaching and returned as a coach for the Wheeling Nailers for 2 seasons before his retirement in 2003. In 2009, Brophy was inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame.
John Brophy was also a minor league player who racked up 4,000 career penalty minutes from 1955-73 and was best known for his rough style. Although he never played in the NHL, he coached the Long Island Ducks — who often wreaked havoc in the minors — and is said to have been the role model for Paul Newman’s character Reggie Dunlop in “Slap Shot.”
Brophy Brought Passion to the Game
Brophy was extremely passionate in his work that it even worked against him at times. “He loved the game more than anybody I know,” said Windel Clark, former Captain of the Toronto Leafs who played under Brophy in his early years, “he was all or nothing.”
John Brophy had been known for his fiery temper and tirades. He had been suspended and fined more than a half-dozen times — as both a coach and a player — for verbally and physically abusing multiple referees, and could hardly bare with losing a game.
After a loss to the Red Wings in 1980, during the time he’d coached the Leafs, Brophy released his frustration by smashing his head into the parked team bus as the Leafs sat inside sulking in their loss. Former Leafs winger Mark Osbourne recalled the sound. “It was almost like something ran into the bus,” he stated. “It was so pronounced. I was like ‘man this guy hates to lose.'”
Mark Holden, who played under Brophy for three seasons in the 1980’s on the Nova Scotia team, recalls the encounter:
“He didn’t hold back. He wanted to win so bad. He certainly brought 100 percent to the game every night and wanted his players too.”
Many former players, fans and hockey insders took to social media to express their grief and to recall unforgotten memories.
“Sad to hear the passing of John Brophy-Maple Leafs coach who was demanding, intense and a tad out there and passionate.” tweeted former Leafs center Ed Olczyk.
(Former Leafs Coach John Brophy Dies)