October 06, 2015

Frank Beaton

Frank "Seldom" Beaton really lived up to his nickname.

Beaton was born in a town named Antigonish, Nova Scotia. No, not Anti-Goonish or even Antagonistic, which would have been a more fitting birthplace. Regarded by man as "The Attila The Hun of The West," Frank was one of the infamous "goons" of the 1970's era of hockey.

Frank created quite a stir early in his hockey career. As a junior during the 1971-72 season he played for the Sarnia Bees (OHL) and picked up 226 penalty minutes in only 49 games. It was pretty obvious that Frank's future in the pro ranks would be in the pugilistic department.

He played another year of junior (with Windsor) before becoming a pro. Without a NHL or WHA contract he literally fought his way through the low minor leagues with the Flint Generals of the IHL between 1973 and 1975.

Frank attended his first NHL training camp in 1974 in an attempt to make the Atlanta Flames. Frank's agent approached Atlanta's GM Cliff Fletcher with a typical Frank Beaton sale pitch:

"What do you need ? Do you need a guy who can put people into the building, stir up a little trouble?" Fletcher's reply was: "Who do you have in mind ?" Frank Beaton was the agent's answer.

Unfortunately for Frank, he wasn't the Flames answer. The man with the lightning quick fists was cut in training camp and instead went on to play for the Hampton Gulls of the SHL in 1975-76. There he clashed with virtually everybody and racked up a league high 276 PIMs in only 46 games.

But he also scored 17 goals in that time, turning some heads. The WHA Cincinnati Stingers needed some extra muscle and added Frank to their roster for the second half of the season. He played a total of 29 games there before he ran into problems.

One day he drove into a Cincinnati service station to fill his gas tank. His trouble began when the attendant missed the tank and spilled some gas on his Covrvette. An argument ensued and Frank decked the attendant with a vicious punch and knocked him out. Later on the attendant pressed charges against Frank and sued him for $48,000.

Beaton's arrest for that incident is almost unbelievable. During one game between the Birmingham Bulls and the Cincinnati Stingérs (WHA) he was arrested between the periods and had to spend five days in jail.

Frank looked back at that incident with a laugh.

"The guys in my cell thought it was humorous having a professional athlete in there with them. They even ironed my shirts for me," Frank said.

He also found it funny when he previously escaped the police when "I had to be taken out of the arena in an equipment bag to get away from the police."

Famed hockey writer Murray Greig always mentions Frank Beaton when naming the top ten toughest players in hockey history.

"He helped transform the Birmingham Bulls from doormats to demons," Greig wrote. "Small by heavyweight standards (five-foot-10, 190 pounds), Beaton was a bonafide bomber who could pummel an opponent non-stop for a full minute, then turn around and do the same to another one ... and another one. The WHA was like that."

Frank continued with his on ice fighting and led the WHA in penalty minutes when he got 274 for the Edmonton Oilers in 1976-77.

His first NHL shot came when he was signed by the New York Rangers as a free agent on July 28, 1978. He got a two game call-up to the Rangers during the 1978-79 season and spend the rest of the season in the minors where he played for the New Haven Nighthawks and got 319 PIMs.

Frank managed to play 23 games for the Rangers the following season. He even scored one goal for the Blueshirts, which proved to be his only NHL goal of his career. Frank continued to play in the minor leagues for a couple of seasons until he decided it was time to retire in 1983.

"I especially loved playing in Madison Square Garden," he told Jen Conway at Slap Shot Diaries. "The fans there are just rabid and the building was electric. I’m sorry my time there didn’t last longer. We had some pretty wild games.I still remember being part of the melee that resulted in the Bruins in the stands and Mike Milbury hitting a guy with a shoe. I scored my only NHL goal in Vancouver, so I never got to hear the Garden cheer a goal of mine. I wish I could have heard that, but I only got one."

Frank won't go down in history as a great player but he sure made his mark in the penalty minute department. During his 10 pro seasons he collected a 2291 PIMs in only 683 games, plus 208 PIMs in 66 playoff games.

He lives in Birmingham nowadays and his hobby is a little less violent these days - he enjoys playing the bagpipes.

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