Sunday, 11 April 2021

Searching For Greg Carroll

I love me a good human interest story, and today's article was prompted by an article written by Gil Tucker of Global News involving the two men pictured to the left. The man on the left in the image? That's Greg Carroll who lives in High River, Alberta, but has no real ties to hockey outside of his name. The man on the right in the image? That's former NHL and WHA player Greg Carroll who is the "Greg Carroll" being sought in this story as we begin down a rabbit hole that will take us from High River to a place fairly close where the non-hockey Greg Carroll lives!

We'll start with Tucker's story over on the Global News site that was filed on April 8. In that story, Tucker speaks with non-hockey Greg Carroll about receiving a hockey card in the mail for the NHL/WHA player named Greg Carroll from a guy by the name of Kevin Oliver in British Columbia.

"When I pulled this card out, it was like déjà vu, like oh my God," Carroll told Tucker. "I had this card, the same card — when I was a kid, of course — because how many Greg Carroll hockey players are there in the world, right?"

I was hooked reading this story because this one like a mini-mystery that needs to be solved. Often, we see hockey players protect their privacy once they retire for a number of reasons, so it very well could be that the former hockey player Greg Carroll had done the same. Instead, it turns out that the hockey-playing Greg Carroll kind of fell off the hockey map after 1980, and it was due to a problem he ran into in Edmonton, Alberta that derailed his hockey career.

Carroll was a star with the WCHL's Medicine Hat Tigers where, in his second year with the club, posted 60 goals and 111 assists in 71 games! Those 60 goals put him at seventh-overall in the WCHL in goals, and the 111 assists he racked up landed him at second-overall in the WCHL behind some dude named Bernie Federko. The 171 points he scored that season had scouts salivating as he finished 16 points back of Federko for the WCHL scoring lead, and it was almost assured that he'd be taken in the first round in one of, if not both, the NHL and WHA drafts.

Sure enough, Carroll was selected 15th-overall by the Washington Capitals in the NHL and was selected 16th-overall by the Cincinnati Stingers in the WHA. Being that the WHA was handing out big money to players at the age of 18, Carroll decided to forego his junior career and made the jump to the Stingers for the 1976-77 season where scored 15 goals and 39 assists in 77 games! Not a bad debut for an 18 year-old rookie!

His second year in the WHA started with a different team when the Stingers opted to trade Carroll and Bryan Maxwell to New England for the rights to goaltender Mike Liut, but Carroll wouldn't lst a full season there. New England flipped him midway through the season from the Whalers back to Cincinnati for defender Ron Plumb! Carroll, who started the season with goals and 14 more assists with the Whalers in 48 games, added 6 goals and 13 assists in 26 games for the Stingers in his return to Ohio. Despite his offensive output, he was not re-signed by the Stingers at the end of the season. As a free agent, Carroll would shift his focus to the other league.

Carroll would sign with the Washington Capitals for the 1978-79 season, but the Capitals were a fairly pitiful team who were looking for help all over the place. After just 24 games with the Capitals, he was waived by the club on January 9, 1979, only to be claimed by a team behind the Capitals in the standings in the Detroit Red Wings. After posting five goals and six assists in those 24 games with the Capitals, Carroll would add two more goals and nine more assists in 36 games with the Red Wings. Once again, he'd find himself as a free agent at the end of the season, but the NHL was changing and there was a chance to go back to a place with which he was familiar.

The absorption of the WHA opened up roster spots all over the place for players, and Carroll signed a one-year deal with the newly-merged Hartford Whalers. Despite playing six games in the AHL with the Springfield Indians, Carroll had his best NHL season in 1980 when he scored 13 goals and 19 assists in 71 games that prompted the Hartford Whalers to open negotiations with Carroll in order to re-sign him. And then the world came crashing down around him.
You can click on the news article to make it easier to read, but the headline should tell you enough as Greg Carroll was arrested on Thursday, June 26, 1980 in Edmonton after police netted some $500,000 in cocaine they alleged was being trafficked. Carroll, for his part, was arrested on two charges: possession of cocaine for the purposes of trafficking and simple possession. Needless to say, this was not the kind of news that NHL teams wanted to hear when it came to employing Greg Carroll for the 1980-81 season and beyond.
On July 3, 1980, Rick Boychuk of the Edmonton Journal was back on the story as Carroll broke his silence on the arrest. Carroll called the arrest "a bum rap", stating that he had no knowledge of drugs being at the party he and his financee attended. His lawyer added that Carroll was a "victim of circumstances", and they hoped to have the charges dropped.

Hartford Whalers GM Jack Kelly told Carroll that he was waiting for the outcome of the pending allegations before making any moves. It would finally be resolved on August 7, 1980 when the charges that Carroll faced were dropped, allowing him to pursue that contract with the Whalers. The only problem? It seems like Carroll fell off the face of the earth between August 1980 and October 1985 as there is literally no record of him playing hockey anywhere during that five season span.

The next mention of his hockey career is in 1985 when he shows up as the player-coach for the Continental Hockey League's Billings Marlboros. If you click the image to the right, you can see the program from the Marlboros that shows Carroll wearing #7 in the lineup while absolutely dominating the scoring stats in just nine games! As coach, he also led the Marlboros to a 7-2-0 record, so it seems like things were going pretty well for Carroll in his return to professional hockey, albeit minor-pro hockey in Montana. Or it was going well until the bottom fell out.
Dave Trimmings of the Billings Gazette filed the above story on November 23, 1985 that the owner of both the Billings Marlboros and the Minot Maple Leafs, Les Bodnar, disappeared altogether, leaving the teams in limbo and the Marlboros in financial ruin. Clearly, things never went any further with the Marlboros that season as Carroll's coaching legacy ended at those nine games and he never played for another team. For the record, the Marlboros disbanded in December 1985, and the league and teams in the Continental Hockey League suspended operations.

Until now, Greg Carroll hasn't really been on many radars, but it seems that Kevin Oliver would like him to scribble on his hockey card, so I did a little digging. It seems Carroll is working as a freelance pipefitter in northern Alberta at the age of 64. I can't find any record him still playing hockey, but you'd think he'd still lace up the skates once in a while, right?

It seems a few people have some leads on how to contact Mr. Carroll, so I'll leave it up to those people to track him down for Mr. Oliver. I would like to point out that Greg Carroll is in the NHL record books as he recorded the primary assist on Gordie Howe's 800th NHL goal while with the Hartford Whalers! And just because there's a bigger WHA tie-in, the goaltender that Howe beat for that goal was none other than the goaltender that Carroll was traded for in former St. Louis Blues netminder Mike Liut! How cool is that?

Anyway, I like these player mysteries and these human interest stories, so there's a deep dive into Greg Carroll's career and life as I hope that Kevin Oliver can finally get his card autographed by the hockey-playing Greg Carroll! As for the non-hockey Greg Carroll, here's hoping his music career nets him at least some accolades as well!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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