LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK - He was a colourful figure on the ice and behind the bench during some of hockey’s most bruising years; and now there is a new book out about Antigonish icon John Brophy, appropriately titled Broph.
The book, available on Amazon, is written by Long Island, New York author Gregg Inkpen who became familiar with Brophy’s career while working on short films about past Long Island-based minor hockey league teams, the Ducks and the Cougars.
Inkpen said it started as he came to know the son of a former Ducks Fan Club president.
“He had this old eight millimeter film and I put together two videos; first one was in 1995 and it was about [player] John Brophy’s team the Ducks. And then, later, when he was done playing, he coached a team called the Long Island Cougars and I ended up making another video about the Cougars.
“From there, that was 2002 I would say, about a year later, I started reading more about Broph; there seemed to be a lot of stories about him,” Inkpen said in a Nov. 9 interview with the Casket.
In 2003, Inkpen made contact with Brophy, who was in Virginia at the time, about doing a book. He sent copies of the videos he had made and Brophy called him saying he was, at least, interested in talking about a book.
“So I drove down to Virginia from Long Island and we did a weekend of interviews there,” he said.
“I wrote a little bit about him and then, back in 2008, I flew up to Antigonish and spent time at St. F.X. looking up articles on him, things like that. I then spoke to him again for another two or three days.
“Basically, that was it; we spoke another few times by phone. So it’s a book I’ve been working on a long time but there have been times where I’ve put it down for a while.”
Inkpen noted Brophy, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 83, was very cooperative in interviews, answering all of his questions, but did so cautiously.
“I just wasn’t sure if it was going to work because John, he would answer anything I asked him but he would never get in depth about it,” he said.
So most of the contributors are past hockey associates, including names familiar to all in this area such as Al MacIsaac and Frank Beaton. Inkpen mentioned Curt Brackenbury as another hockey personality he worked with.
“He played for John and then was an assistant coach down in Virginia,” he said. “I interviewed about 140 people or so; mostly his former teammates, coaches, trainers, and doctors from the teams he played and coached for. He mostly played and coached along the east coast; was in Hampton a long time, the East Coast Hockey League.
“So I found as many people as I could who were close to him. Everyone had a story, I tell you.”
Asked about what he took from those stories, Inkpen said they signaled to him that Brophy was all about hockey and winning.
“He went through three marriages and left a couple because he just wanted to go coach. So it was all hockey and he would do a lot to win,” he said.
“You’ll see in the book a story about him stealing the keys to the Zamboni one time, in the minor leagues when he was coaching, because he didn’t want the other team to have a fresh coat of ice to skate on. So he stole the keys and there was no backup. He would do stuff like that.”
Inkpen said there are roughly two chapters on Brophy’s time as the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He noted that writing includes stories about his run-ins with players like Miroslav Frycer and noted NHL enforcer Dave Semenko, as well as his strong relationship with some of the team’s stars.
“Rick Vaive and Eddie Olczyk, for example, they loved him; they felt like Broph made them better players,” he said. “So there is a lot of mix; a lot of players who liked him and others [not so much]. I tried to cover it all.”
Covering it all includes passages on Brophy growing up in Antigonish and the tragedies which befell him, including two home fires in his youth and car accidents as an adult.
“It’s a little bit of everything in there,” Inkpen said, adding the book also includes rare photos he was able to procure.