In this week’s Q&A, former fighter Harold Phillipoff talks about his run-ins with Terry O’Reilly, his rough and tumble junior days and more.
Status: NHL left winger from 1977-1980 for Atlanta and Chicago.
HT: 6-foot-3 WT: 230 pounds
DOB: July 14, 1956 IN: Kamsack, Sask.
First Hockey Memory: “I think every kid’s first hockey memory growing up in Saskatchewan is playing on the driveway without skates or playing in the basement.”
Hockey Inspirations: “Before there was Bobby Orr there was Gordie Howe. But as a kid I was inspired by Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Frank Mahovlich, Boom Boom Geoffrion…I remember him because of his name. I got to meet him in Atlanta. Great guy.”
Favorite Uniforms: “To this day, I think Chicago Blackhawks. There’s seven to nine different colors on that iconic Native American logo. I like Atlanta, sentimentally, creative and it looked good.”
Greatest Sports Moment: “In my junior career, probably being on the Memorial Cup all-star team, being selected to that. And the greatest moment of my professional career…Playing with Atlanta, I had a game with three goals and two assists. (Against who?) I want to say it was Philadelphia. My memory isn’t very good, I got hit in the head a number of times.”
Most Painful Moment: “You’re talking about physically? (Terry) O’Reilly took out my knee in Boston. Probably the most physically painful. Mentally painful – probably losing to Detroit in Atlanta in the playoffs. I felt we were the better team.”
Favorite Rinks To Play In: “Back in junior, New Westminster had a very small rink. It was kind of easy to play there because teams feared us. The other teams didn’t seem to want to play us. The ’75-76 New Westminster Bruins – the Flyers heyday – that year we outweighed the Montreal Canadiens by 300 pounds. When I broke into the NHL I was the sixth largest player in the league. When I was with New Westminster, I was the fifth largest guy on the team. That year the Philadelphia Flyers had 2,300 penalty minutes and eight bench-clearing brawls. The New Westminster Bruins had 2,800 penalty minutes and no bench-clearing brawls – because no one was crazy enough to come off the bench against us. We were just so much bigger, stronger and faster than everyone else. Playing there was a lot of fun. I loved playing in Atlanta. I was a player who played better on the road. I liked to play in Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Montreal.”
First Famous Player You Met Or Encountered: “Yes, it’s a funny memory. Gordie Howe. We were in Saskatoon. I was probably eight. He was a legendary star. This was ’64. I remember he was in an open convertible, they had him parading down the street. Everyone was trying to get close to him to shake hands and get his signature. And his car wheel ran over my flip-flop [chuckles]. I still got to meet Gordie. And my foot just had a little bit of a bruise on it. Gordie was a god on the prairie at the time.”
Strangest Game: “We lost to the Toronto Marlboros in the Memorial Cup. The ’76 Bruins team. That was the weirdest thing that happened. We were the better team. It was surreal. Other weird things…fog on the ice in Boston at the end of the season. But nothing else that really stood out.”
Funniest Players Encountered: “Timmy Ecclestone. Bill Clement. Tommy Lysiak was a pretty good practical joker. Dry wit – Stan Mikita. Tony Esposito could throw some dry barbs at you.”
Fiercest Competitors Encountered: “The guys we were playing with in New Westminster – Kevin Schamehore, Fred Berry, Barry Beck… it was such a beautiful thing when we were on the same team and not fighting each other. Clayton Pachal. In the NHL, Willi Plett. Tough guy. Pretty intense guy. You wanted to be on his team. I had all kinds of run-ins with O’Reilly, we fought seven or eight times. Bobby Nystrom. Bryan Trottier. Mr. New York…Mark Messier. It was often said five Mark Messiers on the ice versus five Wayne Gretzkys…five Wayne Gretzkys wouldn’t have a chance. Messier was hard as nails, text book skater and he could do everything. He was your typical old time hockey player.”
Embarrassing Hockey Memory: “On the road I could thrive on the negative energy of fans. I would seek retribution on their players. It was much better to keep me asleep. One time we went into Victoria…it was the weirdest and most embarrassing moment. The fans stopped throwing stuff and they stopped yelling and screaming at me. They started this chant, it started very slowly and softly…’Haaaroooold….Haaaaaarrrooold…’ It was really disconcerting. I became intellectually dysfunctional. I even skated back to the wrong bench. I was thinking: Why are they doing this? It was the weirdest moment.”
People/Personality Qualities Most Admired: “Tell me what you’re gonna do and then go and do it. One of the most disappointing traits is when someone says they’re going to do something and they don’t do it. I admire a person who has a good work ethic.”