Saturday, 14 September 2019

Never Seen That Before

As seen to the left, there's a moment in the movie Slap Shot where the police arrive at the dressing room of the Charlestown Chiefs to arrest the Hanson brothers. Reggie Dunlop, played by Paul Newman, eventually bails them out of jail, but it's something hockey fans rarely see happen. It seems, however, that the WHA - a league that always pushed boundaries - decided to do one better than what was portrayed in Slap Shot early the 1978 season when the Indianapolis Racers visited the Edmonton Oilers.

If the name Bruce Greig doesn't immediately strike you, that's likely because Bruce Greig's hockey career at the highest levels saw him play nine games in the NHL and just 60 games in the WHA. He had a long hockey career, but it was at lower levels than the NHL and WHA. Nevertheless, he did have a cup of coffee with the California Golden Seals and California Seals in the NHL before spending seven games with the Calgary Cowboys, 32 games with the Cincinnati Stingers, and 21 games with the Indianapolis Racers. It would be with Indianapolis where things took a turn for the weird for Grieg.

Without further explanation, I am posting the following newspaper clipping written by Terry Jones, Edmonton correspondent to The Indianapolis News, on Saturday, November 18, 1978. Click the image to read the clipping.
As stated in the clipping, the Edmonton police arrested the 24 year-old Greig during a stoppage in play while he sat on the Racers bench with 2:46 remaining in the third period. According to the report, Greig had an outstanding warrant for his arrest for allegedly assaulting a fan while he was a member of the Calgary Cowboys in 1976 while the Cowboys had been visiting Edmonton during the 1976-77 season.

Apparently, the Stingers never visited Edmonton during his 32-game stint in the 1977-78 season, so the Edmonton police made the arrest with Greig and the Racers visiting in November of 1978. After a scuffle that Greig and his teammates put up with the arresting officers, the Racers forward was led back to the dressing room where he was arrested as the final 2:46 was played out on the ice.

The warrant that the Edmonton police were executing apparently stemmed from a Calgary-Edmonton game on February 13, 1977 when Greig and teammate Peter Driscoll were sent to the penalty box after being called for penalties. Greig apparently threw a punch at an Oilers fan while sitting in the penalty box. The fan pressed charges for assault, and the Edmonton police finally caught up with Greig upon his return to Northlands Coliseum with the Racers on November 17, 1978.

While there aren't any online records to see if he plead his innocence or plead guilty to the charges, there is an ironic twist to this story as a June 7, 1979 story in The New York Times states that the merger between the NHL and WHA saw Bruce Greig claimed by the Edmonton Oilers as part of their entry into the NHL! Perhaps he made enough of an impact during his few visits to Edmonton that the Oilers wanted him playing with them as opposed to against them?

Whatever the reasons were, Greig never played in Edmonton again following his arrest on November 17, 1978. He played in the IHL with Toledo and Dayton in 1979-80, the EHL with the Salem Raiders in 1980-81, the CHL with Dallas before returning to Salem who joined the ACHL in 1981-82, followed by stints with Virginia and Carolina in the ACHL in 1982-83, the Mohawk Valley Stars in the ACHL in '83-84, and finally with the Spokane Chiefs of the WIHL in '84-85.

After retiring from hockey, Bruce Greig began powerlifting where he excelled at the sport. Grieg held several Canadian powerlifting records and served as the President of the Canadian Powerlifting Council which existed until 2010 when it was replaced by the Canadian Powerlifting Federation. Bruce and his estranged wife, Wendy, operated the Back Alley Gym in Okotoks, Alberta where it was popular among powerlifters and body builders. The gym closed in 2007 after Bruce Greig went through undisclosed personal problems.

Unfortunately, a car accident claimed Bruce Greig's life in 2008. At the time, Greig posted the tenth-highest deadlift of all-time at 308 pounds. He also held the Masters 40-44 age group and Masters 45-49 age group deadlift WPC World Records at 308 pounds as well. The 56 year-old was killed in a single-car collision near Nanton, Alberta, approximately 50 kilometers south of Okotoks. Funeral services were held in Nanton.

Bruce Greig may have led a more difficult life after hockey, but he holds a special place in hockey history after Edmonton police arrested him on the visitors' bench during the Indianapolis Racers' visit to Edmonton on November 17, 1978. If anyone asks if a player has ever been arrested mid-game, you now know the answer to that trivia question!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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