Thursday, June 11, 2015

1995-96 Buffalo Sabres Bryan Fogarty Jersey

Born in Montreal, Quebec on this date in 1969, Bryan Fogarty grew up in Brantford, Ontario and played in the same youth hockey system as Brantford native Wayne Gretzky. Association coordinator Bob Coyne told reporters "He was a star. From the time he put his skates on, he was better than everyone else. We had seen Wayne. Wayne had to work at it. His game was outsmarting everybody else. Fogarty's game was outperforming everybody else. That's like comparing a Volkswagen to a Corvette."

His junior career began in 1985-86 with the Kingston Canadiens of the Ontario Hockey League after being drafted first overall, ahead of players such as Adam Graves and Brendan Shanahan. His first season saw the defenseman score 21 points in 47 games. He followed that with an impressive 1986-87 season during which he scored 20 goals and 50 assists for 70 points in just 56 games to finish third in team scoring. That performance led to him being drafted #9 overall in the first round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by the Quebec Nordiques, six picks ahead of Quebec's second choice in the first round - future Hall of Famer Joe Sakic who was taken at #15! Fogarty was also selected ahead of future NHL All-Stars such as John LeClair, Eric Desjardins, Mathieu Schneider and Theo Fleury, such was his talent level.

Because of his immense talent, at age 15 Fogarty was playing with 20 year old players. Being in such a group allowed him to get into clubs and bars, which led to his drinking so much to combat his severe social anxiety that he acquired the nickname "Tipsy" due to his frequent inebriation.

"He had everything. He could skate like the wind. He could see anybody on the ice. He could make the perfect pass. He was as talented as anybody I've seen in junior hockey. Everybody was telling me you can't go wrong with him," said Maurice Fillon, the Nordiques General Manager who drafted Fogarty.

After one more season with Kingston, Fogarty finished his junior career with the Niagara Falls Thunder where he dominated the OHL with 47 goals and 108 assists for a league leading 155 points, 10 points clear of right winger Stan Drulia, which earned him the Canadian Junior Player of the Year Award. His 47 goals broke Bobby Orr's 23 year old record for goals by a defenseman and the league record for points in a season by a defenseman, both of which still stand over 25 years later.

 photo Fogarty Niagara.jpg
Fogarty set offensive records with Niagara Falls that remain today

Fogarty turned pro for the 1989-90 season, splitting time between the Halifax Citadels of the AHL (22 games) and the Nordiques, with whom he scored 14 points in 45 games. In 1990-91, Fogarty showed his NHL potential with 9 goals and 31 points in 45 games for the Nordiques, including a hat trick on December 1, 1990. He also played 5 games for Halifax, but only being able to manage 50 games would set the tone for what was to follow for Fogarty in the years to come.

 photo Fogarty Nordiques 1.jpg
Fogarty came into the NHL as a Nordique with great expectations

"Fogie and I lived in the same apartment complex as Sakic. One night we came back late and had to help him to bed. WE were worried about him making practice the next day. The next morning, we went knocking on his door. He was already at the rink, whistling and having coffee. Then he's skating circles around people. I thought, "If I drank like he did last night, I wouldn't be able to drag myself out of bed in the morning." But it wasn't affecting him. That's when we all became more concerned," said Fogarty's former teammate Ron Tugnutt.

The Nordiques tried to help Fogarty with his addiction issues and sent him to an alcohol rehab clinic, provided him with a psychologist and found a family in Quebec City for him to live with with. They also roomed him on the road with another player who was dealing with chemical dependency issues of his own, John Kordic. That arrangement worked in the fall and winter of 1991, but my January, Kordic was using again.

 photo Fogarty Nordiques 2.jpg
1991-92 was Fogarty's last of three seasons with Quebec

Fogarty's difficulties were reflected in his unsettled 1991-92 season, as he played with four different clubs that year, spending 20 games with the Nordiques in the NHL, 2 with the Citadels and 4 with the New Haven Nighthawks, both of the AHL and 8 games with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the IHL - a total of just 34 games.

 photo Fogarty Halifax.jpg
Being sent to Halifax was not good for Fogarty's efforts to stay sober,
as it took him away from his support system

The Nordiques General Manager Pierre Pagé promised Fogarty he would trade him if he could stay sober for three months, which resulted in a trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins in March of 1992. Before the 1992-93 season could begin, Kordic died of a heart attack in August, for which Fogarty blamed himself.

Fogarty only lasted a dozen games with the Penguins, who were unhappy with his conditioning. For the remainder of the 1992-93 season, he only managed 15 regular season and 3 playoff games with the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the IHL.

He was signed by the Tampa Bay Lighting as a free agent, but never managed to play for them in the NHL. Instead, he played 8 games for the Atlanta Knights, 3 games for the Kansas City Blades and 33 games for the Las Vegas Thunder, all of the IHL. He was signed as a free agent by the Montreal Canadiens in March of 1994, and returned to the NHL for 13 games - 57 games total.

 photo Fogarty Montreal.jpg
Fogarty got another chance at the NHL with Montreal

His 1994-95 season consisted of 21 games with the Canadiens until it became apparent to Montreal that Fogarty was not taking care of himself and his time with them came to an end.

He was next signed by the Buffalo Sabres in September of 1995, but again, never played for the Sabres in the NHL. He did see action with both the Detroit Vipers (18 games) and the Minnesota Moose (17 games).

In 1996-97, Fogarty returned to Kansas City, playing 22 games for the Blades. He also joined his first European club in Milan, Italy, which lasted just 7 games.

 photo Fogarty Blades.png
Fogarty, seen here with Kansas City, spent the last five years
of his career bouncing around the minors and Europe

He gave Europe another try in 1997-98, showing promise by playing in 39 of the Hannover Scorpions 44 game schedule and finishing second in defensive scoring with 25 points, his highest total with one team since 1991 with the Nordiques and the first 20 point season since then as well.

That sign of a turnaround for Fogarty prompted the Chicago Blackhawks to sign him in September of 1998, but he spent 36 games of the 1998-99 season with their top IHL affiliate, the Indianapolis Ice, scoring 22 points. He finished the season with the Baton Rouge Kingfish of the ECHL, playing in 5 regular season games and 4 playoff contests.

Things really took a turn for the worse when he was arrested in June of 1999 for breaking and entering at a school in Brantford as well as drug possession. Still, in September, he was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. That experiment lasted just three games with the St. John's Maple Leafs in the AHL. Following his release, he signed with the Knoxville Speed of the United Hockey League. While he did score 17 points in 16 games, he was off to Germany and a return to Hannover for 22 games with the Scorpions.

His final season as a player saw him play 18 games with the Elmira Jackals of the UHL and 11 games with the Huntsville Tornado of the Central Hockey League.

His final NHL totals were 156 games played with 22 goals and 52 assists for 74 total points in six seasons, less than half of his record setting season in junior hockey. His non-NHL professional totals were 314 games played, 57 goals and 207 points in 12 seasons an average of just over 17 per season.

After retiring in 2001, he remained sober for more than a year and returned to Brantford to run the family business. In March of 2002, he was on vacation to do some deep sea fishing. On arrival, he and a relative went to the bar and spent the day drinking. The next morning he could not be awoken and was pronounced dead at the age of 32, which the coroner attributed to an enlarged heart.

His mother Virgina summed up Bryan with the following: "He needed the beer, but it was demise. The profession, the lifestyle - he couldn't handle it. He wanted the hockey, but it was so hard the way he was. The inside of Bryan and the world around him didn't seem to meet."

Today's featured jersey is a 1995-96 Buffalo Sabres Bryan Fogarty jersey as worn by Fogarty during the preseason, emblematic of the several times during his career he signed with a team, including Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Chicago and Toronto, but never saw action with that club in the NHL.

 photo Buffalo Sabres 1985-86 F jersey.jpg
Buffalo Sabres 1985-86 jersey photo Buffalo Sabres 1985-86 B jersey.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 1993-94 Montreal Canadiens Bryan Fogarty jersey from his final club in the NHL. While he undoubtedly posessed the skills to play in the NHL, having played for three teams and was signed by no less than seven, his personal demons derailed his career right from the start. In all, he played for 17 different clubs in seven leagues spread over nine seasons.

Montreal Canadiens 1993-94 jersey photo Montreal Canadiens 1993-94 jersey.jpg
photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

What could have been. Kevin Stevens scores for Pittsburgh with the first assist coming from a centering feed from Fogarty after a faceoff win by Mario Lemieux.

1 comment:

  1. This website is really remarkable. Every day you post a new jersey and every day the post is interesting and thought-provoking. I had never knew about Bryan Fogarty. This is a great post. They all are, though. Nice work!


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