February 19, 2015

Frank Bialowas

George Strombolopoulos recently interviewed fellow Sportsnet cast-mates Nick Kypreos, Corey Hirsch and Colby Armstrong, all former NHLers. They talked about the troubles pro hockey players have once they hang up the skates - or in many cases have the game taken away from them. The uncertainties, the lack of purpose and direction, the being unprepared for anything other than hockey. It was an interesting, open but surprisingly somewhat controversial video. Here's the footage

Yes, I did say controversial. Only in the sense that there was backlash by fans, mainly anonymously online. It seems they took their anger out on the NHL Alumni Association, who are mentioned in the video for their progressive programs to assist hockey players transition to regular life after hockey. This prompted @NHLAlumni to tweet:

It seems some fans took offense the idea that what hockey players face really isn't so different than any of the rest of us working stiffs, except that hockey players have an incredible financial cushion to help them out.

That is the perception, anyway. Reality is all this isn't so much about Sidney Crosby or Phil Kessel or Shea Weber. It's more about guys like Frank Bialowas.

Who the heck is Frank Bialowas you ask? He was a popular, long time minor league goon who got into 3 NHL games with Toronto back in 1994. About all you need to know about him as a player is his 1900+ career penalty minutes in the minors and his nickname - "The Animal." He enjoyed punching people in the head so much he even tried his battered hands at professional boxing, winning one match and losing another.

Here is a video biography of this AHL folk hero (with poor audio):

Bialowas was arrested this week, allegedly stealing a $54 dimmer switch from a Home Depot in Williamstown, Pennsylvania.

I really don't know what Bialowas story is since leaving the ice. His alleged theft reminds me of Chris Nilan, a much more famous NHL tough guy with a similar story. Loved for his punching ability during his career, he hit rock bottom after leaving the ice. His story became public when he was arrested for stealing some swim trunks from a store near Boston.

Nilan was able to get his life back on track. Hopefully Bialowas can, too. They have a great advantage that not many of us have when facing such situations. No, not oodles of cash to support them financially for the rest of their lives. They have a great organization in the NHL Alumni to help them through such tough transitions.

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