By TRIS WYKES, The Virginian-Pilot
© March 31, 2006
Last updated: 10:50 PM
John Brophy, the 73-year-old former coach of the ECHLs Hampton Roads Admirals, could return to the bench next season with a proposed minor league team in Richmond.
Brophy declined comment on the issue while watching the AHLs Norfolk Admirals play at Scope last weekend. But Richmond businessman Allan Harvie said he plans to place a Southern Professional Hockey League franchise in the Coliseum if its current hockey tenant, the United Hockey Leagues Richmond RiverDogs, leave as expected next month.
Harvie said Brophy is his top choice for coach if that scenario occurs. At times during a Wednesday phone interview, Harvie sounded as if the deal was already in place.
If Johns available, the jobs his, and I think he will be tremendous, said Harvie, who founded and ran the ECHLs Richmond Renegades from 1990-93 . Hes like a little kid in a candy store at the thought he could be back in pro coaching.
Norfolk Admirals general manager Al MacIsaac spent nine seasons with Brophy as an ECHL Admirals player, assistant coach and general manager. MacIsaac said he believes that his mentor wouldnt hesitate to return to coaching.
If someone offers him a job, hes going to take it, MacIsaac said. Its his mentality. He likes challenges.
Coaching would seem to offer Brophy just that in light of lingering injuries from a 2000 car crash in his native Nova Scotia that nearly killed him . Though no one questions Brophys toughness and resolve, his mobility is limited by leg, back and hip ailments sustained in the crash, and he lost sight in one eye.
Coaching a hockey team generally requires skating during practice and long stretches of standing behind the bench during games. Throw in arena staircases and lengthy bus rides, and its a lifestyle that wears even on much younger men.
Harvie, however, scoffed at the notion that Brophys physical condition might be a drawback.
I couldnt care less if John ever got on the ice, said Harvie, a 60-year-old who is also blind in one eye. Hell have a tremendous assistant coach who will help him out, and he can sit in the stands with me. Between us, well have two good eyes.
The ECHL Admirals went dormant in 2000 to make way for their AHL namesakes, and Brophy missed the next season recuperating from his auto accident. He was 64-73-7 with the ECHLs Wheeling (W.Va.) Nailers from 2001-03 but didnt make the playoffs either season.
His last coaching stint came in 2004-05, when he was a late-season replacement for a junior team in his hometown of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. His club made a dramatic turnaround, but he was not asked to return for this season.
Brophy said he and his wife, Nancy, an LPGA pro, own and operate Mulligans Golf Center in Harrisonburg. The practice facility has a driving range, a putting and chipping green, miniature golf and a pro shop.
Brophy still drives, but only during daylight. Last weekend, he occasionally choked up discussing his limitations and frustrations.
I cant do the same things on the ice anymore, said Brophy, adding that he no longer plays full-length golf courses because a lack of depth perception makes it difficult to strike the ball. I found I couldnt cross over and turn one way. If youre going to coach somebody and you cant stand up, it doesnt look right.
I am the luckiest guy in the world to be living. But I never wanted to end up a cripple, and I dont like the way I look now. Its not the old part, its the fact I chopped myself up.
Brophy left Morrison High School in Antigonish during his second year and soon began a 20-year minor-league playing career. He scored 34 goals and earned 4,444 penalty minutes, numbers that reflected his playing style.
Brophy coached in various leagues, including briefly in the NHL, for more than 15 years before becoming the ECHL Admirals first and only coach. He guided them to three league titles in 11 seasons .
The ECHLs Coach of the Year award is named for Brophy. He has a pro record of 1,028-907-166 and trails only legendary NHL coach Scotty Bowman (1,244) in regular-season victories among pro coaches.
Should Brophy climb aboard a SPHL franchise in Richmond, it would join a six-team circuit at the minors lowest level. The league places an emphasis on rookie pro players .
The SPHL began with eight teams for the 2004-05 season, lost North Carolina franchises in Asheville and Winston-Salem and this season is operating in Fayetteville, N.C., Columbus, Ga., Huntsville, Ala., Jacksonville, Fla., Knoxville, Tenn., and Florence, S.C. It hopes to add Richmond and another city and again field eight teams next season.
My position all along has been that I just want hockey in Richmond and if its the RiverDogs, thats great and Ill support them, Harvie said. But I cant sit back and wait until July to see what theyre going to do. I became proactive and at least Ive got my foot in the door and have laid groundwork for a club in the SPHL.
With perhaps, a living legend for its coach.
Reach Tris Wykes at 446-2367 or email@example.com