November 27, 2015
George McPhee may better known as a NHL general manager, but there was a time when he was one of the NHL's toughest players on the ice.
Mind you, in one preseason incident in 1999 he kind of forgot things are a little different off the ice.
In that game, the Blackhawks dressed a team full of physical players and goons, and were taking a number of liberties upon the Washington Capitals players, who did not dress any particularly aggressive players. McPhee took great exception to this classless act, and stormed down from the press box and hunted out Chicago coach Lorne Molleken after the game. Once he found him, a few choice words were hollered and not long afterwards punches were thrown. McPhee walked away with his sleeve torn, but Molleken was sporting a big black eye for the next few days.
The NHL suspended McPhee for one month. But this incident brought back memories of McPhee the hockey player.
Despite standing just 5'9" and 170lbs, George loved the physical contact. He loved to bang and crash, dig in the corners and work along the wall. A powerful skating stride help make him a punishing hitter. In addition he was a willing scrapper, often catching his opponent by surprise with furious little punches.
McPhee started his hockey career as a star for Bowling Green State University. McPhee captured numerous awards there Central Collegiate Hockey Association's Rookie of the Year in 1979 and the prestigious Hobey Baker Award given yearly to the top college hockey player in college hockey in 1982. The 4 time All Star was not just another dumb hockey player however, as he became the first player in CCHA history to make the conference's all-academic team three consecutive seasons.
Despite such a great college career, he was never drafted by the NHL. The CCHA at that time wasn't considered to be an overly strong league, and there were concerns about George's size.
The New York Rangers however finally game George a shot when they signed him to a free agent contract in the summer of 1982. George spent his first full pro season with the Rangers farm team in Tulsa of the CHL, scoring 60 points in 61 games. He was called up to the Rangers just in time for the NHL playoffs. He had a strong showing in the toughest part of the NHL schedule too, scoring 3 goals and 3 assists in 9 post-season games, helping the Rangers get into the second round.
After such a great playoff, it was a disappointment that George didn't have a stronger training camp the following season. He spent all but 9 games in the minor leagues during an injury shortened season.
Injuries played a big role in McPhee's career. He only knew how to play one way - full out and very physical. If he didn't play that way on every shift he would have no hope of ever making the National Hockey League. However his body wasn't built to play that way, at least not against the giants in the NHL. As a result George spent as much time in rehab as he did on the ice in the following season.
Among his injuries were a bad back, bad thumb, bad hip, bad shoulder and bad wrist. However his worst injury was inflicted in November 1987 when he pulled his groin. The injury never really healed properly, and he missed a ton of time as a result. The injury eventually forced George to quit playing altogether.
George made the Rangers roster for the 1984-85 season. He played in just 49 games, scoring 12 goals and 15 assists for 17 points while adding 1 goal in 3 playoff games.
George only appeared in 30 games the following season, and just 21 in 1986-87. That looked like a lot of time compared to the next two season. He appeared in just 6 NHL games (plus 11 more in the minors) as he retired by years end.
George, who grew up idolizing Eric Nesterenko, retired having played just 115 games. He scored 24 goals and 25 assists for 49 points. He also accumulated 257 PIMs. He also played in 29 playoff games, with 5 goals, 3 assists, 8 points and 69 PIM.