Nova Scotia

John Brophy, Maple Leafs coach and hockey legend, dead at 83

The hockey legend was a native of Antigonish, N.S.

Hockey legend was a native of Antigonish, N.S.

Former Toronto Maple Leafs coach John Brophy has died at the age of 83.

The native of Antigonish, N.S., had a legendary hockey career, spanning many leagues and decades. The news of his death was first reported by Hockey Night In Canada's Elliotte Friedman. Brophy passed away Monday morning, according to his family.  

"Brophy is credited with more than 1,000 pro coaching victories, a number surpassed only by Scotty Bowman," Friedman tweeted. 

Old-school coach

The East Coast Hockey League, where Brophy coached for 13 seasons, said in a statement Monday that he died after a lengthy illness.

Mark Holden played under Brophy for three seasons in the 1980s on the Nova Scotia Voyagers team. He recalls Brophy as an "old-school type of coach."

"He didn't hold back, he wanted the win so bad. He certainly brought a 100 per cent to the game every night and expected that from his players too. "

'Demanding, intense'

Brophy took over head coaching duties of the Maple Leafs for the 1986-87 season, leading Toronto into the second round of the playoffs. He was fired 33 games into the 1988-89 season after the Leafs got off to an 11-20-2 start.

"Sad to hear on the passing of John Brophy - Maple Leafs coach who was demanding, intense, a tad out there & passionate," former Leafs centre Ed Olczyk posted on Twitter.

Brophy signed on as head coach of the ECHL's Hampton Roads Admirals for the 1989-90 season. He led the Admirals to three league titles over 11 seasons.

He ended his ECHL coaching career with two years behind the bench of the Wheeling Nailers, retiring after the 2002-03 season. 

'Very popular'

It was after Brophy's time as a head coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs that CBC host Bruce Rainnie crossed paths with him.

Rainnie said during his time as a host with Hockey Night in Canada he often saw Brophy at charity golf events in the Maritimes. He remembers him as a "character."

"I think the most famous image of him was when he would get furious with the referee, he had this wicked shock of thick white hair and he had a face that would just get beet red so you had the contrast of the red face and the white hair," said Rainnie.

"He'd always punctuate every one of his outbursts with a door slam at the bench and he'd just fire it closed and glare at the referee with his red face and white hair."

Million stitches and stories

Brophy was also known for his love of the good old-fashioned hockey game.

"He loved hockey played a certain way, played in that old style where it was a tough game, you took no quarter, you gave none and you fought for your space on the ice and your space on the team. He was a tough guy from that old school and he had a million scars, a million stitches and a million stories," Rainnie said.

And even though Brophy is well known for his character, Rainnie hopes he will be remembered as a tremendous coach as well.​

Many hockey insiders and fans took to Twitter to remember him Monday.

With files from The Canadian Press


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