Skip to main content



Longtime coach Brophy dies at 83

Second to Bowman in professional hockey wins

by @NHL /

John Brophy, who ranks second all-time to Scotty Bowman in victories as a professional hockey coach, died Monday at the age of 83.

Brophy coached the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1986-89 and in two-plus seasons went 64-111-18. He was an assistant coach with the organization from '84-86.

He spent the majority of his career coaching in a number of minor leagues. His 1,027 wins are second to Bowman's 1,244.

Brophy won three ECHL championships as coach of the Hampton Roads Admirals in 1991, '92 and '98. The Admirals never experienced a losing season with Brophy in his 11 seasons as coach. He retired as the ECHL leader for regular-season games (882), regular-season wins (480) and seasons (13) coached. He holds ECHL coaching records for postseason games (94), postseason wins (55), postseason appearances (11) and championships (three).

The ECHL Coach of the Year award was renamed the John Brophy Award in 2003, and he was inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2009.

"The entire ECHL is saddened to hear of the passing of John Brophy," ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna said in a release. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Brophy family. There was no greater competitor than John Brophy. He played a very significant role in building the ECHL and our annual Coach of the Year award bears his name."

Prior to coaching, Brophy played 19 seasons, including 18 as a defenseman in the Eastern Hockey League. He had 34 goals, 334 points and 3,817 penalty minutes in 1,143 games from 1955-73.

Former NHL goaltender Les Binkley recalled his days as a teammate of Brophy's in Charlotte of the EHL from 1956-58.

"You should have seen Brophy," Binkley said in 2006. "He was completely nuts, and I was happy he was nuts on my team. A guy would go around him only once. Then clunk, over the head. Or under the chin. Ever seen a guy lifted up almost like he's been pitchforked? That was Brophy."

Brophy was named player-coach for the Long Island Ducks in 1968-69 and became a head coach for the first time with the Long Island Cougars in the North American Hockey League in 1973-74. He also coached in the American Hockey League, Central Hockey League, Maritime Junior A Hockey League and Southern Professional Hockey League, where he had his final job with the Richmond Renegades in 2006-07.

In his 1993 book, "Behind The Bench: Coaches Talk About Life in the NHL," Dick Irvin Jr. recalled a memorable moment when forward Steve Thomas was playing for Brophy in Toronto.

At the time, Thomas was one of the leading scorers for St. Catharines in the AHL.

"We've got guys in this room who haven't scored for month … for months … for months," Brophy said to Thomas his first day in the dressing room. "I brought you up here to score goals. You travelled 40 miles to get here, but remember, it's like 40,000 miles if I send you back."

In June 2000, Brophy was forced to take a season off from coaching after sustaining injuries in a car accident, but he returned in 2001-02 as coach of Wheeling in the ECHL for two seasons before announcing his retirement. He came out of retirement for the final season with Richmond. 

"Am I driven? Very much so," Brophy told The New York Times in 2006. "Driven to win. To me nothing, nothing, replaces winning. Nothing."

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.