Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bad News follow-up

Finally, a piece on Gilles Bilodeau -

From The Birmingham News:

Hockey player `Bad News' was a teddy bear off the ice

Sunday, August 31, 2008
News staff writer

Gilles "Bad News" Bilodeau famously delivered some bad news on Nov. 24, 1977, in what was coined The Thanksgiving Night Massacre in the next day's newspaper.

It took Bilodeau and four other Birmingham Bulls starters exactly 24 seconds to start a free-swinging, 15-minute brawl against their opponents. Players racked up 78 penalty minutes in the first 30 seconds of play.

"Bulls make a big Thanksgiving kill," The Birmingham News headline read . . .

(Click to read more)

Friday, August 15, 2008 Eddie Shore

Hockey Night in Birmingham. My dad used to tell me stories of Birmingham's fabulous 3 seasons with the renegade major hockey league, the World Hockey Association. Those stories pretty much always revolve around good old hockey brawls - and many of them involved Birmingham hockey legend Gilles "Bad News" Bilodeau, who played 2 seasons for the Bulls from 1976-78. Bilodeau played in a peculiar era of professional hockey, dominated by almost-cartoonish goons and obnoxiously long bench-clearing brawls (we're talking hour-long, just read the Beaton entry here at #10).

Bilodeau was a tough guy (570 PIMs in 143 games) on a team full of tough guys (2177 PIMs in 80 games in '77-78) - Frank Beaton, Steve Durbano, Serge Beaudoin, Bob Stephenson, and Dave Hanson - just to name a few. I recall one story that involved Bilodeau, head bashing, and a pool of an opposing player's blood left on the ice. I'm not sure of the veracity of that tale, whether it has suffered the effects of memory and embellishment over the years - but you get the picture. These were the wacky days of hockey, straight out of Slap Shot (once Jeff Carlson hit Bilodeau over the head with the rink-side announcer's microphone!).

Like a few other players- Phil Roberto, Brent Hughes and Frank Beaton, the Quebec native made Birmingham his home, having met his wife and subsequently raised his family in the Magic City. He is remembered fondly in many of my circles and in fact, a friend of mine's family dog was actually named Bilodeau. (Not an uncommon event, my aunt named her dog "Serge" after her favorite player Serge Beaudoin. I'm glad we didn't have a dog named after Bill Flett, my mom's favorite player, but I digress...)

After the WHA's demise, Gilles eventually got a little ice time in the NHL, getting in some shifts with the Nordiques. He would reappear in some later minor league incarnations of the Bulls, and later on he could still be recognized around town, especially coaching and volunteering down at the Alpine Ice Arena and at St. Barnabas Catholic church & school.

Sadly, Bilodeau passed away this week at age 53. There was not much in the paper, other than his obit, but nothing indicated the cause of death. Hopefully The Birmingham News will do something on him this weekend, this town owes him at least that much. The old Bulls of the 70's made hockey a permanent part of Birmingham culture - thanks in large part to Bad News Bilodeau. For that, the entire staff here at The Briefcase will be eternally grateful. We will miss you, Bad News.

Recommended further reading: The Rebel League: The Short and Unruly Life of the World Hockey Association, Magic City Hockey and BirminghamProSports

Although this is not the best clip, here's a taste of [not so] old-time hockey, like Eddie Shore: