All right … I know, I know … you’ve been waiting breathlessly (or something equally unsettling) for our rundown of hockey fighters/policemen/enforcers/goons who provided their classic brand of entertainment here. Do it now and quickly … before they’re forgotten, lost forever, extinct like the goony bird in the wake of the new, touchy-feely version of the only game that could have made cult heroes of the 1973-74, 1974-75 Philadelphia Flyers. The Broad Street Bullies are dead. Long live the Bullies!
This is the memory man’s second skatealong with the genuine tough guys. In the first, we profiled Jack McIlhargey and Dave Schultz as the best of a dying breed to display their fistic ability here. This is Volume 53: “The Answer is … Trevor Senn. Who else?”
The question (asked to end our last shimmy on shinny): And the runaway (not close) leader in total penalty minutes — local teams only — with 1,787 in 261 games was … ?
Check YouTube for some of hockey’s all-time one-on-one beatdowns, and there is Senn, slugging it out — all offense, little defense — with a variety of opponents — all bigger than the 5-9, 180 pounder from Kindersley, Saskatchewan, Canada. His March 13, 1999, fight with Toledo’s Ken Tasker, who was four inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, is rated as one of the game’s best ever.
Tasker was quoted as saying: “I knew he was coming to town the next night, and I was so wired, I could hardly sleep … In the warmup, as we skated around, I said to him, ‘Are we gonna go tonight?’ And he said, ‘Yes, let’s give them a show.’ … After the game, I had three Toledo fans shake my hand with 50-dollar bills in it.”
In six seasons, five with the Renegades (1994-97, 1998-2000), Senn averaged 6.8 PIM per game. Or, he spent the equivalent of 29.4 games in the bad-boy box. The right winger’s personal high was 528 penalty minutes (including playoffs) in 1995-96 for the Renegades who finished first overall during the regular season and attracted their all-time (13 years) best average attendance of 6,487.
In 2002-03, with UHL Adirondack, Senner rang up 521 penalty minutes. The following season with the Ice Hawks, he added 214 more including a memorable punchout here with Brian Goudie, No. 2 on our all-time PIM list. Senn, 51, ended a 14-year pro career in 2004-05, returning to Richmond for 30 games (215 PIM) with the RiverDogs.
Goudie, 48, was a 5-10, 200 pound defenseman who spent 16 years as a professional, nine with Renegades I (5), RiverDogs (3) and Renegades II (1) compiling 1,566 PIM in 521 games. He retired in 2007 to coach R-II for two seasons, hockey’s last hurrah here.
From La Pas, Manitoba, Canada, Goudie was the East Coast Hockey League’s all-time leader in penalty minutes when he stopped playing, a record since surpassed. He played for both the Hampton Roads Admirals and Renegades I, who had some of the most heated games and always drew large crowds anticipating the teams’ next brawl.
One of the more memorable came in Norfolk at the Scope in March, 1996 when a third-period bench-clearing affair started with HR’s Aaron Downey slashing Senn who, in a fight the night before here, cut the NHL-bound Downey for 10 stitches. That was the game in which Goudie, playing for Richmond, shot the puck at linesman John Shiery, grazing his left shoulder and incurring an eight-game suspension as a result.
ECHL commissioner Pat Kelly handed out numerous fines and suspensions for the weekend’s extracurricular activity then insisted, “This isn’t the kind of hockey we want … and I don’t believe the fans in Richmond or Hampton Roads want it either.” Come on, Pat ... Surely you jest!
Then there was Dan Vandermeer, who rounds out our top 5 all-time … ahh … throwers of punches. His brother Peter probably was the best of the six Brothers Vandermeer from Caroline/Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, at beating up people. Unfortunately, we were otherwise occupied during his two seasons in Richmond. (In 1999-2000, he compiled a personal-record 457 PIM while scoring 31 goals with the Renegades.)
Vandermeer, 43, was an undersized defenseman who nevertheless took on all comers for the Renegades I and II and Riverdogs. He had 951 minutes in 481 games over eight seasons — and once grabbed yours truly by the shirt collar to remove me by force from the dressing room. He was not penalized, and no supplemental discipline was necessary.
In no particular order, our subjective list of tough guys who duked it out here also includes:
- is another featured fighter on YouTube. Robbie Nichols, who had a scrap or two during his playing days, was the RiverDogs coach and general manager who brought the 6-2, 250-pound heavyweight to town for 322 PIM in 2005-06, the team’s third and final season. Goody, 39, remained to play a little more than a year for Renegades II, adding 521 more. In other words, he appeared in 104 games and rested in the box for an equivalent of 14.1.
“Matt was a big kid, big AND strong,” said Nichols, owner of the Federal Prospects Hockey League’s Elmira (N.Y.) Enforcers. “I had coached against him [UHL], and I knew he’d be a fan favorite in Richmond.”
- already had a reputation for unpredictability when he showed up to play for the Wildcats in late 1976. OK, the left winger with the wild blonde afro was a well-known cementhead for previous appearances with nine different teams in three seasons as a pro. He was called “mean” and “nasty,” but, with the notable exception of beating up the husband whose wife apparently made a play for Goldthorpe at the Coliseum watering hole after a game, the Canadian pretty much behaved himself here.
He appeared in 25 games, had four fights plus four match, three game and three 10-minute misconduct penalties and left with 169 PIM when the Wildcats called it quits three months into their only season. In fact, coach Muzz MacPherson assigned Keith Kokkola, a big, tough defenseman, to be Goldthorpe’s roommate and … umm … babysitter. They got along well, and Kokkola, who played football at North Carolina for coach Bill Dooley, proved to be a better pugilist, taking apart such rivals as Charlotte heavyweight Gilles Bilodeau.
Kokkola died in 2004 at age 55. Goldthorpe, 68, reportedly is retired and living in the Vancouver area.
Bilodeau, 6-4, 220, suited up for the Rifles in 1980-81, their second and last season. All things considered he might have been the craziest player to spend time here. From Quebec, Bilodeau had left behind a trail of mayhem before coming to Richmond. Among other things he was charged with second degree assault of two rink-side policemen as the result of a brawl at a game where he was a spectator. Later, the player nicknamed “Bad News” broke a rival goaltender’s neck, cross-checking him from behind … and bit off a piece of an opponent’s ear during a fight.
In 47 games with the Rifles, Bilodeau managed 237 PIM and became the subject of a lawsuit after hitting a player in the face with his stick. Bilodeau died in 2008 at age 53. His obituary reminded friends of his “quick wit and sense of humor.”
Jason Bone and Frank Bialowas
- also can be found on YouTube, exchanging blows with assorted rivals. Like Bone, 41, who played six pro years for seven teams, scoring a total of 13 goals while piling up 1,434 PIM, Bialowas made his hockey living as a fighter for hire. Of Bone, Nichols said, “He was more of a loose cannon. He was a little wild on the ice … [and] those 10-minute misconducts add up quickly.” From Keeseekoowenin, Manitoba, Bone had 54 minutes (zero points) in 12 games for the 2004-05 UHL RiverDogs, one of four teams he played for that season.
Unlike Bone, whose highlights were mostly from the goon-infested Quebec senior league, Bialowas, 50, did most of his damage — 2,279 minutes in 545 games — in the American and United Hockey leagues. Nicknamed “The Animal,” the left winger also reached the NHL, if briefly, for three games with Toronto in 1993-94 (0 points, 12 PIM). He made his pro debut two years earlier with the ECHL’s Roanoke Valley Rebels (23 games, 150 minutes) before appearing in 61 games (263 PIM) for the Renegades in 1992-93.
Then there was John Craighead
- who played pro hockey 13 years (1992-93 through 2004-05) and, by his count, had 142 fights among 2,000-plus penalty minutes. Now 49, living in Vancouver and owner of the junior-B Surrey Knights, he spent the 1993-94 season with the Renegades. In 28 games here, Craighead accumulated 18 goals, 30 points and 89 PIM.
“He played for me with the [IHL] Detroit Vipers, the year after he was in Richmond,” said Nichols, then-Vipers’ assistant GM. “John was a hard worker … willing to do anything to get to the NHL … which he did for five games with Toronto. Good guy. Smart guy. He was one of those guys who also could play.”
He’s all over YouTube, too, taking on such noted purveyors of mayhem as Donald Brashear, Darren McCarty and Andy Bezeau. A 6-1, 200 pounder, Craighead seldom lost because of a lethal left hand. Also, he can be found articulating his craft, to wit: “For me, hockey is two sports. One is the team aspect. Two is fighting as a form of entertainment for the spectators.”
Lest we forget … while Craighead is listed as being from “Richmond, Va,,” he set the record straight in a 2019 interview with a reporter from Germany (where he played toward the end of his career). “I was born in Washington, D.C., and we moved to Surrey, British Columbia, when I was 3 …,” Craighead said. In other words, Zachary Jones, 20, who recently signed with the New York Rangers and appeared in his first game April 22, really is the first NHL player to come from the Capital City.
Moving along with our list of players who didn’t mind dropping their gloves and trying to rearrange opponents’ faces:
- Dave’s older brother couldn’t have made a more attention-grabbing debut for the Robins (Dec. 1, 1973). Acquired from Denver (WHL) for Frank Spring, Schultz arrived at the Coliseum as the team bus was about to leave for Norfolk’s Scope and a date with the Virginia Red Wings. Then, on his first shift, he went after Robbie Ftorek, jump-starting a wild, penalty-filled game. In less than two periods, Schultz set a then-franchise record of 34 PIM including two fights. Richmond lost 7-1. I can still see AHL supervisor of officials Dan Morrison, standing on a chair, screaming at Schultz’s shenanigans.
The next night, the 6-1, 195-pound left winger had two more fights against Baltimore but, except for the rematch with Virginia Dec. 27 in which he collected 30 penalty minutes in the opening :52 and was ejected, Schultz had an otherwise less than noteworthy season here. He had a goal and 104 PIM in 28 games, missing 21 from Feb. 7 to March 28. Schultz died in 1994 from cancer. He was 46.
- A gangly 6-3, 190, he was the Washington Capitals’ third-round draft choice (37th overall) in 1974, their first season. He was sent to Richmond with a reputation for, shall we say, mixing it up — and quickly lived up to advance billing with a fight in the Robins’ 1974-75 season opener. In all, Paddock had eight scraps in 72 games and finished with 206 PIM as well as 26 goals. He played all or parts of two seasons here — 114 games, 37 goals, 304 minutes.
Mostly, Paddock’s success has been measured by five AHL championships, three as a coach. He also was head coach for NHL Winnipeg and Ottawa as well as general manager and assistant GM at several stops. Paddock, 66, currently runs the junior league Regina Pats.
Yours truly will never forget the night Paddock could have died or, at the very least, suffered serious brain damage. It was a game at the Richmond Coliseum. Understand, this was during a time when players were balking at wearing headgear. Fortunately, Paddock was when he fell backwards, in free-fall, smacking his helmet-protected cabeza on the ice. A concussion? Perhaps. It could have been much worse.
Also: Robins Steve Short and Steve Coates; Rifles Ray Kurpis, who had a Senn-like scrap with Erie’s Val James here; Mike Brown and Lawrie Nisker, a scorer who learned to fight on the job to protect himself; Renegades Craig Patterson (1996-2000), No. 4 on the all-time local PIM with 639; Gary Gulash, and Steve Dumonski, another YouTube favorite for his brawling days in junior hockey. Goudie was the Riverdogs’ primary threat with 447 PIM in 224 games.
When Short, 67, a 6-2, 200-pound-plus bruiser, came to the Stanley Cup-champion Flyers’ training camp as a rookie in 1974, he was tested immediately. Let’s find out just how tough the kid is. It didn’t take long for the eighth-round draft choice to prove he belonged. Sent to Richmond, he contributed two fights and 24 PIM in a three-game stretch that saw the Robins penalized 330 minutes including a Sunday afternoon March 1 brawl against Virginia. That was the game in which McIlhargey set a franchise record 51 minutes. He and Short both fought Wings’ tough guy Dennis Polonich.
Mike Brown? The Rifles’ 6-5, 215-pound right winger, not to be confused with 15 other pro hockey players of the same name, had 23 fights as a rookie here in 1979-80. This M. Brown was the New York Rangers’ 11th round choice in the 1977 draft but chose to play two more years at Western Michigan University. He had 243 minutes in 70 games for the Rifles his first season then split 1980-81 between EHL rivals Richmond and Baltimore (combined 68 games, 233 PIM). Brown, 63, completed his career with four years in the IHL (1,096 minutes in 359 games).
Finally, a question: Can you name the former Richmond player who last played in a North American professional game? Trevor Gillies, 42, (Renegades 2001-03, 24 games, 71 PIM), who completed his career in 2018 with ECHL South Carolina. Along the way he played parts of three years with the New York Islanders (2009-12) after making his NHL debut with 21 PIM in 2:40 ice time with 2005-06 Anaheim.
Until next time ...