When you think of international hockey, you think of nimble skaters and passing fancies, not lumbering, hard hitting defensemen like Brian Glennie. He, too, had Olympic dreams, and he almost risked a NHL career to achieve it.
Glennie was a junior star with the 1967 Memorial Cup champion Toronto Marlies. But he resisted the temptation to turn pro with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who won the Stanley Cup in 1967. Instead Glennie skated with the Canadian national team in 1967-68, with the Grenoble Olympics as his goal.
He even refused to join the Leafs when famed coach Punch Imlach demanded he did so, as the Leafs blue line was decimated with injuries. Rather than risk losing his Olympic eligibility by playing a professional game, Glennie stood up to Imlach, who in turned threatened to bury Glennie's NHL career before it even started.
Glennie went on to a great year with the Nats, and a strong Olympics. Canada even had a chance to win gold, but an unfortunate moment involving Glennie ended the dream.
"All we had to do was tie the Russians and it would gives us the gold. In the second we had played them to a stand off and were getting good scoring chances," Glennie recalled in Ross Brewitt's book Into The Open Net. "Then I broke my stick in our end. The play moved away and continued almost long enough for me to get to our bench, but not quite, and I was caught in a two-on-one. While I was scrambling back, I ran over my own stick, fell, and they walked in and scored. The whole flow of the game changed and they went on to whack us 5-0. We came home with nothing. (Actually, Canada did win the bronze medal that year.) I never forgot that broken stick."
Imlach obviously forgave Glennie, as he joined the Leafs the following season, even giving into Glennie's demand for more pay. Glennie would go on to 572 games in the NHL, mostly with Toronto and also with Los Angeles late in his career. He was a devastating hitter, best remembered for his masterful hip checks.
He even was part of Team Canada at the 1972 Summit Series. Though he never played in any of those games, he narrowly avoided being puked on by Stan Mikita. (Yes, you just read that correctly.)
Glennie struggled with life after retiring from pro hockey. He opened his own bar, but was better known for his own drinking than serving. He was able to beat the habit later in life.
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