Legend has it that when John Muckler was running the Long Island Ducks of the old Eastern Hockey League, he traded John Brophy six times and traded back for him seven times. Things sometimes become a little blown out of proportion when it comes to these larger-than-life legends, but that one is pretty easy to believe.
That’s because you couldn’t have made this stuff up. Brophy, who died over the weekend at the age of 83, was a true throwback. He kicked around the minors as a player for 20 seasons and with 3,848 penalty minutes to his name, is one of the most penalized players to ever play the game. He retired in 1973 at the age of 39, not because he could no longer play, but because the league he was playing in folded. As a coach, he was behind the bench for nine teams, all of them in the minors with the exception of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL and the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA, winning three ECHL championships and piling up almost 900 career wins.
Brophy’s time as head coach of the Maple Leafs, from 1986-87 to midway through the 1988-89 season, was marked primarily by the Leafs’ ineptitude on the ice and Brophy’s colorful personality behind the bench. His tenure included arguably the most epic post-game coaching rant in NHL history. In February of 1988, the Leafs had just lost 4-2 to the Minnesota North Stars, who would go on to finish dead-last in the league, one point behind the Leafs. When approached by Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun and Mark Harding of the Toronto Star after the game, Brophy lost it.
The rant was actually in two parts. Part I lasted three minutes and 44 seconds. Then when Hornby and Harding went to the dressing room to talk to the players, Brophy had assistant coach Gary Lariviere summon them back out because he had more to say. Part II lasted two minutes and 18 seconds. Combined, it was six minutes and two seconds and all told, Brophy dropped 57 F-bombs.
Here’s the rant in its entirety:
Brophy: I didn’t see any improvement. That was the worst game we played in a f—in’ whole bunch. The other thing is this: we’ve got to give Minnesota a lot of credit. They outworked us everywhere all over the rink. They outhit us, outplayed us. I had a goaltender working tonight. I had Todd Gill working tonight on defense, Rick Lanz, Peter Ihnacak and (Mike) Blaisdell. They were the only guys who worked on this hockey club tonight. The rest of them stunk the f—in’ joint out.
Hornby: How do you explain that? Such a big game.
Brophy: Don’t ask me as to how to explain that. It’s nothing new. They’ve done it all f—in’ year long.
Hornby: Anything you can do to shake them up before the next game?
Brophy: I don’t know. Listen, I’m tired and sick and f—in’ tired about having f—in’ people who won’t come to the f—in’ rink and you have to ask people to get shook up and you have to ask people to get moved around. And you’ve got to try to motivate people. I got to figure that we’ve got f—in’ seriously consider what the f— we’ve got on this hockey club. They’re not f—in’ foolin’ nobody. And most of all, they’re not fooling anybody else in the f—in’ league, I’ll tell you that.
F—in’ let a guy run Borje Salming at the end of the f—in’ game, never do f— all. It’s a disgrace. I’m sick and f—in’ tired of making excuses for all these f—in’ guys getting’ paid on this hockey club blaming it on somebody else all the f—in’ time.
Hornby: You have the power to make changes.
Brophy: What do you think if we play like that, for Christ’s sake? Do you think the doors are being knocked down asking for our players?
Hornby: Can you do it with the club you have? You’re saying it’s in them to do it.
Brophy: You can talk about any team. You can talk about the team we just played and congratulate them because they f—in’ beat the shit right out of us, there’s no question about it.
Hornby: Can I ask you about (Basil) McRae? What happened there?
Brophy: I don’t know, what the f—. It’s nothing new with those two guys, they fight all the time. You have to give him a lot of credit, he came out and tried to do the things he can.
Hornby: Did you have anything to say to him yourself?
Brophy: It’s just talk in general. It’s a bunch of horseshit.
Hornby: This has got to be a little embarrassing for your guys.
Brophy: It’s embarrassing. It’s f—in’ embarrassing, without f—in’ question. It’s embarrassing. Embarrassing, embarrassing. It’s very f—in’ embarrassing. But it seems to never be around who is playing the f—in’ game. It’s always embarrassing for somebody else.
Brophy: These 22-23-year-old snot-nosed…there’s a f—in’ bunch of f—in’ people here trying to get f—in’ people fired all the time. They get paid plenty f—in’ good money to play f—in’ hockey. And I’m telling you right now, it’s a f—in’ bunch of f—in’ shit that’s been happening on this team most of this f—in’ year.
Who are these f—in’ guys anyway? Who the f— do they think they are? They can go out and play a f—in’ game in and a game out and play one and they play f—in’ four or five f—in’ bad ones and don’t even f—in’ play. Just who are they and who the f— do they think they’re kidding? Where do they get the f—in’ nuts to come to the f—in’ rink every f—in’ second day and fourth day and play and play one f—in’ period in a week and all this f—in’ shit and get away with it? Just who the f— can they explain that to?
All they’ve f—in’ got are a bunch of f—in’ excuses for f— sake. Win a f—in’ game, get all happy, that’s good enough for a f—in’ month.
Hornby: Do you plan to sit down with them in the next day or two and make this clear to them?
Brophy: It’s is very clear to those, from the f—in’ start I am tired explaining, I’m tired of making f—in’ things clear to this f—in’ hockey club. I am f—in’ wore out doing it. We explain more things to this f—in’ hockey team and get shit for it than any team in history. Don’t tell me they weren’t explained to and talked to and told.
Hornby: Did you speak to them between periods?
Brophy: Yeah, I talked plenty. Who are these f—in’ people who drag that f—in’ uniform down into the f—in’ mud for Christ’s sake? Great players play in the f—in’ thing and then act like this here. Who are they?
Hornby: Anyone you’re most upset about?
Brophy: I told you the ones that played hockey.