John Brophy

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John Brophy (born January 20, 1934 in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada; died May 23, 2016 in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada) was a hockey player and coach. He was the head coach of the Birmingham Bulls in both its WHA and CHL incarnations from 1978 to 1981.

Playing career

Brophy was a tough defenseman who played 18 seasons in the Eastern Hockey League, racking up nearly 4,000 career penalty minutes between 1955 and 1973—the most in EHL history—playing parts of nine seasons with the Long Island Ducks and retiring at the age of 40. He was reported to be the model for the character Reggie Dunlop (played by Paul Newman) in the movie Slap Shot.

Early coaching career

Brophy had briefly been player-coach with the Ducks in the 196869 season, and became a full-time coach following his retirement as a player. He coached the Hampton Gulls for four seasons until the team folded during the 197778 season. He then joined the Birmingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association as assistant to coach Glen Sonmor, becoming head coach in 1978 when Sonmor joined the Minnesota North Stars. His team finished last in the league, but included several future NHL stars at the beginning of their professional careers: Rick Vaive, Michel Goulet, Rob Ramage, Craig Hartsburg, and Gaston Gingras, as well as a 36-year-old Paul Henderson. Even though his team was the only one in the league not to make the playoffs, Brophy was awarded the Robert Schmertz Memorial Trophy as the WHA's coach of the year.

After the collapse of the WHA, the Bulls moved to the Central Hockey League and Brophy coached the team for another two seasons. In 1981, Brophy was hired by the Montreal Canadiens to return home and coach their AHL affiliate, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. He held the job for three seasons.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Brophy then joined the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, first as an assistant coach with the Leafs, then briefly as head coach of the Leafs' AHL team, the St. Catharines Saints, and then as head coach of the Leafs for the 198687 season. The Leafs showed some promise during Brophy's first season as coach, despite finishing the year with a losing record, but it all went downhill from there with an embarrassing season in 198788. Brophy feuded with general manager Gerry McNamara, who tried to have Brophy fired but ended up being fired himself. After an equally poor start to the 198889 season, and despite being a favorite of Leafs owner Harold Ballard, Brophy was fired in December 1988, 33 games into the season.


Brophy then found a home in Norfolk, Virginia with the Hampton Roads Admirals of the East Coast Hockey League. He coached the team for 11 seasons, from 1989 to 2000, winning three league championships. The Admirals did not have a losing season with Brophy behind the bench.

On June 25, 2000, Brophy was badly injured in a car accident near New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. He was listed in critical condition with a broken leg and a head injury. Brophy had fallen asleep at the wheel while driving.

After a successful recuperation, Brophy returned to the ECHL in 2001 as coach of the Wheeling Nailers for two seasons and retired. The ECHL's coach of the year award was renamed the John Brophy Award in 2003. As of 2006, Brophy was the all-time leader among ECHL coaches in regular season wins (480), playoff games (94) and playoff wins (55) and was inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2009.

Recent coaching positions

In 200405, he coached his hometown junior team, the Antigonish Bulldogs of the Maritime Junior A Hockey League. For 200607, at age 73, he went back to Virginia as head coach of the Richmond Renegades of the Southern Professional Hockey League.

As a professional hockey coach, Brophy has accumulated 1,027 victories, the second highest amount in all of professional hockey, behind only Scotty Bowman.

After one season with the Richmond Renegades, it was announced that Brophy would be released from his contract.


Brophy died in his sleep at his home in Antigonish on the morning of May 23, 2016, from a long-illness, aged 83.

Preceded by:
Glen Sonmor
Birmingham Bulls (WHA) head coach
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Birmingham Bulls (CHL) head coach
Succeeded by:


External links