Former Leafs coach doesn't mince words on Marlies
Lance Hornby, QMI Agency
|Former Toronto Maple Leafs' coach John Brophy. (Sun files)
TORONTO - Age has not slowed John Brophy’s sharp tongue.
The 79-year-old former coach of the Maple Leafs and a local legend for his success with Virginia’s last champions, the Hampton Roads Admirals of the ECHL, made him an ideal quote for the Marlies-Admirals Calder Cup final, which begins here Friday night.
Brophy, who has retired to Antigonish, N.S., made no secret to the Virginian Pilot newspaper that he’s backing the city that put his commemorative banner in the Scope Arena rafters, while delivering a dig at the franchise that fired him in 1988.
“The Marlies? All they have to do is show and lose,” Brophy told the paper. “Toronto never wins anything in hockey.”
Whether Brophy, a three time winner here in the 1990s, was just trying to wind up the Leafs’ farm team or not, his comments didn’t amuse head coach Dallas Eakins.
“He would know that best because he coached (two and a half years) there,” Eakins shot back, not breaking a smile. “He was a big part of that.”
The Leafs or their farm team have not won a title since the late 1960s.
But Steve Thomas, director of player development for the Tampa Bay Lightning and serving as assistant coach with Norfolk, thought his old coach’s comment was more amusing than acerbic.
“Oh wow, that’s a bold statement,” former Marlie junior Thomas said. “But if anyone makes it, that would be Broph in his tongue-in-cheek way.
"I had him as coach in Toronto and in St. Catharines (on the farm) and he was hard nut. He was a legend here. He’s a fun guy to be around.”
Eakins was more receptive to Norfolk’s current coach, Jon Cooper. The former defence attorney from East Lansing, Mich., took the Admirals into the pro hockey record book with a 28-game regular-season win streak, which brought him national attention.
“No disrespect to Jon, but it wasn’t until they got on that huge roll that I wondered who is coaching their team?” Eakins said. “We’ve never played them. But people certainly know him now. He has done one hell of a job with this team.”
The Marlies starting forward lines for Game 1 are still a mystery, with Eakins trying to see if Carter Ashton (concussion) or Marcel Mueller (upper body) are ready to take the place of Matt Frattin (knee surgery after the last game).
Eakins, who is also without the injured Mike Zigomanis and Nazem Kadri up front, is already flying blind against a Norfolk team that usually dresses 11 forwards and seven defencemen and mixes lines.
“We’re still working through a few things,” Eakins said.