|By Allan Maki of Toronto's The Globe
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
is running through the names, checking them off a
list he compiled 31 years ago. They are names from
the Charlottetown Islanders, a junior A hockey team
that no longer exists. They are names he has never
forgotten because they started it, he finished it
and that's the way it had to be.
were older than we were and they beat us up good.
So I said to them, 'With my last breath, when I become
a pro hockey player I will get every one of you guys'
-- and I did. I did 'em all. Kevin Devine. Garth McGregor.
Al MacAdam. I fought 'em and I said, 'You tell those
other guys I'm coming for them.' And when I was done,
I always said, 'That's for the boys in Thunder Bay.
T-bag Bay. The land of the tough guys.' "
wait for a belly laugh, a chuckle, anything to suggest
he is only kidding, that he didn't really hunt down
every player from that Charlottetown team. But there
is no laugh, only the stone-cold silence you'd expect
from a man once dubbed the wildest, meanest, most
unpredictable player in hockey.
is the guy, people tell you, who once jumped out of
a penalty box, skated after a linesman and, because
the referee had grabbed his arms and pinned them back,
did the next worst thing and bit the linesman on the
leg. Then there was the time he jumped onto the ice
and began beating up opposing players while dressed
in shoes and street clothes. "I looked like a
guy trying to water ski," he said. Again, no
he spent part of his pro career hunting down foes
from his junior days is petty stuff when you consider
the voice on the other end of the phone belongs to
none other than Ogie Ogilthorpe. Not the actor who
played the character in the 1977 movie Slap Shot,
but the real Ogilthorpe -- Bill (Goldie) Goldthorpe,
the impossibly Afro-haired hellion who was the inspiration
for much of the film's wildest moments.
the scene where the hockey puck gets deflected high
into the stands and KO's the organ player in the head.
It's a variation on the night Goldthorpe, back in
the penalty box, was so angry he picked up a water
bottle and tried to toss it at a rival player except
the bottle slipped out his hand and KO'd the penalty
announcer standing nearby. ("San Diego penalty
to No. 7, Bill Gold . . ." Thunk!)
how about the final scene where the actor playing
Ogilthorpe skates onto the ice for the start of the
championship game and the announcer says it's been
a trying year for Ogie "what with the litigation,
the notoriety, his subsequent deportation to Canada
and that country's refusal to accept him?" Goldthorpe
was arrested in Wisconsin after slugging it out with
a teammate on the tarmac at the Green Bay airport.
It took two Canadian immigration officials to escort
him back into the country the next day.
tell people I played with the real Ogie Ogilthorpe
and some of them don't believe me," said Marc
Habscheid, the coach of Canada's national junior team,
who spent a season with Goldthorpe in the American
Hockey League. "We were with Moncton and I remember
Halifax pounding us. The next game against them, Goldie's
in the lineup and we're at our bench for the national
anthem and Goldie says, 'Open the gate.' I said, 'They're
playing the anthem.' He says, 'Open the gate.' So
I open the gate and he goes onto the ice and stands
in front of their bench and he talks to all their
players. I don't think those Halifax guys threw a
hit all game."
his prime, Goldthorpe was as volatile as nitroglycerin.
He'd blow up and fight if someone so much as looked
at him funny, even if the game hadn't started, even
if it meant going into the stands. It was all part
of the rough-and-rumble 1970s, the golden era of bare-knuckle
the mention of Goldthorpe's name in the World Hockey
Association was enough to scare the stripes off a
referee's sweater and it was the same in the North
American Hockey League, where he played against the
Johnstown Jets and the likes of Dave Hanson and the
Carlson brothers, Steve, Jeff and Jack, the Big Bopper.
strange thing was Hanson and two of the Carlsons got
to play characters similar to themselves in Slap
Shot. They became the height of horn-rimmed hilarity.
Twenty-five years later, they're still working their
shtick in countless public appearances and in Slap
Shot 2: Breaking the Ice, the sequel released
this year. In fact, most everyone associated with
the movie, including the star, Paul Newman, has benefited
from its enduring popularity and can look back fondly
-- but not Goldthorpe.
the movie that not just glorified hockey violence
but made us laugh at it left Goldthorpe bitter. It
took his game, his name, his blonde Afro, then asked
Johnstown goal scorer Ned Dowd to play the part of
of all, my character, Ogie Ogilthorpe, was a compilation
of several kinds of people, not Bill Goldthorpe per
se," said Dowd, who served as a sounding board
for his sister, who wrote the screenplay, and is now
a Hollywood producer.
knew Bill. He's quite nice, a lovely guy. Is Bill
Goldthorpe a part of that compilation? Yes. But to
the best of my knowledge, there was never an offer
made. I think the thing was we couldn't get a hold
Dowd's full of crap," Goldthorpe snorts. "You
want to know why I wasn't in the movie? They thought
I was too wild and I'd beat up Paul Newman."
but here's what happened: Newman's brother came and
saw us play. I was with Binghamton. That night, there
had been a fight in the stands in Johnstown and I
got charged with assault. In the dressing room, I
had a coke bottle and I was so angry I threw it at
Paul Stewart [a teammate turned NHL referee] because
he wouldn't shut up. The bottle hit the wall, and
at that moment Newman's brother walked into the room
and got Coke all over him. That was it. They thought
I was an undesirable."
real criminal element," Newman says in the movie.
was just the tip of the rap sheet. As rough as he
was on the ice, off the ice Goldthorpe was like a
bull on the streets of Pamplona. He wouldn't back
down from a challenge because that's not how you do
it if you're from the land of the tough guys, T-bag
think Goldie's proud of the role he played. He took
care of his teammates and he was fiercely loyal,"
said George Gwozdecky, now the University of Denver
hockey coach and a former teammate. "But there's
no question he's not proud of some of the things he
did off the ice. He'll admit he screwed up."
of those screwups landed Goldthorpe in jail. A couple
nearly scared the life out of him. One tore up his
stomach, cost him chunks of his small intestine and
left the real Ogie Ogilthorpe close to death.
He is telling you stories, enough to fill a book.
In many cases he tells "the real story"
instead of the much-rumoured version and in many cases
he comes out looking worse. Eighteen years after he
played his last pro hockey game, Goldie Goldthorpe
is not about to turtle.
I regret any of those off-ice incidents? All of them.
I'm not going to whine. I did it because I didn't
have discipline. I should never have drank. I wasn't
a drunk but I drank and that didn't help. I didn't
start every fight. I'd be in a town and someone would
say, 'You're not that tough.' I was only 173 pounds
and people couldn't believe I was Ogie Ogilthorpe.
That's how a lot of things got started."
of them ended badly. In 1980 in San Diego, he was
shot in the stomach while trying to rescue an ex-girlfriend.
It was the ex-girlfriend's drug dealer who didn't
like the way Goldthorpe got involved. So, bang! The
bullet rearranged Goldthorpe's entrails and just missed
his kidney. The paramedics who treated Goldthorpe
said if he hadn't had such strong abdominal muscles
he would have died.
a tough guy through and through came naturally to
Goldthorpe. He was born in northern Ontario, in the
railway town of Hornepayne. His father Alfred was
as big as a boxcar and worked as an engineer for the
CNR. His mother Pearl was a nurse's aide. When Alfred
and Pearl got married their best man was Leo Boivin,
an NHL tough guy in his day.
Goldthorpes sent their son to Thunder Bay to play
minor hockey and it wasn't long before he learned
that he would have to fight for his respect. Goldthorpe
lived with his aunt Eva Gannon in a house that still
has a statue of the Virgin Mary in the attic window.
The statue was placed there to keep the house holy.
It didn't do much for Goldthorpe, the resident holy
Gannon would say, 'I can see it in your eyes. You're
bad,' " said Goldthorpe, whose temper once took
out many of the front windows at his aunt's house
and also made him a quick participant in a scrap.
at a midget tournament in Dauphin, Man., Goldthorpe
came to the aid of a man who was wrestling with a
referee who had slugged a spectator. The man was Albert
Cava, the legendary Thunder Bay coach who had travelled
to Dauphin to see the young kids who would be moving
up to the Port Arthur Marrs. The incident struck a
chord between Goldthorpe and Cava. The coach loved
the ferocity of his young forward while Goldthorpe
loved the way his coach treated him.
was fair with him. I appreciated what he could do
for our team," Cava said. "He was a helluva
hockey player, the best penalty killer I've ever seen.
He played every shift as if his life depended on it."
was involved in dozens of donnybrooks with the Marrs,
who later became the St. Paul (Minn.) Vulcans. In
Smiths Falls, Ont., a fan slugged Vulcans defenceman
Lee Fogolin Jr. while he was on the ice. Goldthorpe
flew into the stands and, in the ensuing scuffle,
broke a security officer's leg. The security man recognized
Cava a month later and said not to worry, "I'm
getting compensation. I've never had it so good."
a kid, I used to watch [Thunder Bay defenceman] John
Schella and his buddies, guys who were older than
me. They played poker and they played tough hockey,"
Goldthorpe said. "I was only 17 and I wanted
to be like them."
for needing a police escort to home games, it was
sort of true. After getting into a fight one summer
in Hornepayne, Goldthorpe was jailed, then allowed
to finish his sentence in Thunder Bay. Gwozdecky would
sign him out for practices and games, then return
him at the appointed hour. (For the record: Goldthorpe
had a summer job as a gravedigger.)
1973, two years after losing to Charlottetown and
plotting his Rambo-like revenge, Goldthorpe was off
to the pros. He had 20 goals and 26 assists his first
season in the NAHL and that earned him a go with the
WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints. In 1977, he was invited
to the Toronto Maple Leafs' training camp and played
well in scrimmages and exhibition games. The coaches
said they wanted Goldthorpe to stick around but the
team wasn't prepared to offer him a contract. Goldthorpe
walked. After a brief tryout with the Pittsburgh Penguins,
the NHL was finished with the wild man from Thunder
Bay. Within seven years, all of hockey was done with
trouble was there was still some trouble ahead.
He is talking about his scars because he has almost
as many of them as he does stories. He says he needed
300 stitches to his left arm and hand after an encounter
with a knife-wielding thug who had been beating up
a woman. Goldthorpe had watched the attack from across
a street before rushing in like the Marines. Had a
buddy not applied a tourniquet to Goldthorpe's arm,
he would have bled to death.
are also scars on Goldthorpe's stomach and heart from
his 1980 shooting. Alfred Goldthorpe spent 30 days
in San Diego nursing his son back to health. A week
after he returned to Thunder Bay, the 58-year-old
engineer climbed aboard a train and died of a heart
attack. His wife Pearl had died seven years earlier,
a victim of cancer at 53.
his dad so soon after almost dying himself was the
double whammy that pinned Goldthorpe against the wall
and got his attention. He went back to school and
enrolled in accounting and computer programming. He
got a construction job and is now a foreman in charge
of building a 340-unit condominium in downtown San
Diego. To keep busy, Goldthorpe lifts weights and
competes in bodybuilding competitions. Life is good,
except for one thing.
Slap Shot business bothers him," Gwozdecky
insisted. "The Carlson brothers have lived off
that movie ever since they made it. On the other hand,
Goldie, who had more of a reputation, more of a legacy,
more toughness and was depicted in the movie that
way, never received a thing -- not even an acknowledgment."
15 years, Goldthorpe avoided the movie until finally
he watched it. He thought it was okay. Recently, a
friend came up with the idea of recognizing Goldthorpe's
past by designing a special T-shirt. On the front
of the shirt is a picture of a big-haired, angry Goldthorpe,
a guy you wouldn't want to cross unless you had a
tranquilizer gun -- to use on yourself. On the back
is a list of 18 cities and dates topped by the words,
'The Bill Goldthorpe North American Jail Tour.' Goldthorpe
loved the T-shirt so much he's been selling them by
the box load and donating the money to charity.
never hidden from what I did. All that stuff, it's
just the way it worked out. It's not like I woke up
in the morning and said, 'I'm going to jail tonight.'
Everything that happened in that movie, it happened
to me. All those guys, they made millions of dollars.
I didn't get a dime. But when I meet guys who played
the game, they all call me Ogie Ogilthorpe. They all
say that. They know."
pauses. The silence is stony cold.
buddy told me once, 'Goldie, you're going to be a
bully in an old folks home.' "
It's a joke, a poke at his own expense. You
can tell because,
for the first time
he started talking,
the tough guy on
other end of the
line is laughing
Reprinted with permission of The Globe and Mail