Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Connie Madigan

Connie "Mad Dog" Madigan is the answer to a common trivia question. Who is the oldest NHL rookie ever ? Yep, Connie Madigan is your answer. When Connie was called up by St.Louis in February 1973 he was 38 years, 4 months old. Never before or since have anyone older than that debuted in the NHL. When Connie was called up by St.Louis he had a long professional career behind him in the minors.

Connie's youth in Port Arthur was a tough one, and he literally fought his way into hockey from the time he first laced on skates at the age of five. One of his neighbours from that time remembered Connie very well and once said about Connie.

" I remember Connie and his buddies as youngsters. When they needed a ride home, they didn't mind "borrowing" a police car to get it."

Connie's tough childhood rubbed off on his play. He was a very tough customer who set numerous league records in penalty minutes. He picked up a staggering total of 3537 PIMs during his career, 2181of them in the tough WHL.

He was once asked by a reporter if was ever going to soften up on the ice, Connie responded. " I can't, I know only one way to play this game, and I'm not too cute. If you don't have heart and you don't want to win, you should get out. Besides, there's always someone ready to take your spot."

After a junior career with the Port Arthur Bruins and Humboldt Indians he went to the NY Rangers training camp in 1955 but was cut. After that Connie became a hockey drifter and played for 12 different clubs.

Connie was a pretty controversial figure from time to time, which probably kept him buried in the minor leagues. Even some of his teammates didn't like him because he was so outspoken. Don Head, a goalie who was Connie's teammate in Portland (WHL) summed it up best when he said, "Listen, the guy isn't always smart. But he hates to lose, and he'll never quit trying. He's strong, he has a good shot and he's hard to check."

Another teammate in Portland was Tom McVie who later went on to become an NHL coach. His view on Connie was about the same as Don Head's. " His drive and desire are the strongest parts of his game. He wants to win so bad that he can taste it."

A typical Connie Madigan trademark was that he always played his best hockey against teams that had dumped him, or as Connie put it "You always play your hardest against a team that gets rid of you."

But Connie wasn't just a brawler. He was a seven time All-Star in the WHL as well as an All-Star in the IHL. In 1968 he won the Hal Laycoe Cup given to WHL's outstanding defenseman.

Connie spent most of his professional career with the Portland Buckaroos in the WHL, 11 seasons in total. He was probably the most hated rival in the old Buckaroos' Glass Palace. He never gave the opponents any breathing room. Fittingly enough, he retired with Portland in 1975 at the age of 40.

His drive and desire deservedly gave him a shot in the NHL at an age when most players were retired. All his penalty records are eclipsed by now but his late rookie debut will probably stand the test for many years to come, if not forever.


K.D. February 7, 2010 at 11:21 AM  

Connie was, no doubt, the biggest drawing card in the WHL - the guy everybody loved to hate.

Anonymous,  October 22, 2011 at 8:33 PM  

I just finished working a pipeline job with Connie...He's as tough out there at 76 as any of the guys who are many years younger.

Larry T.,  February 22, 2012 at 4:37 PM  

I was a Seattle Totems fan when Madigan played for the Buckaroos & we tried to never miss that matchup. In one game while players were jockeying for position prior to a faceoff a fan threw a salmon which hit Madigan in the back at neck level. He picked up the fish & threw it back into the stands. His aim wasn't as good as the fans though & it landed in the lap of a woman in a fur coat. It has always been one of my most memorable hockey moments!

Anonymous,  May 11, 2016 at 10:11 AM  

I was working in the St. Louis Blues press box when they brought Connie up. I commented to Dan Kelly and Gus Kyle, "i guess he's getting some tips from Barclay Plager." They both started laughing so hard they could barely stand up. They said Connie made Barclay, then the toughest guy in the league, look like a sissy.

Anonymous,  March 18, 2018 at 12:25 PM  

Yes, I remember Connie too. My dad and I took in a San Diego Gulls-Portland game many years back in the 70's at the San Diego Sports Arena, Buckeroos vs Gulls, a lot of very hard hitting going in that game and a Seattle player slammed a Portland Player into the boards........(should have been called, but was not)..........so Portland returned the favor and they got called. Madigan and Rick Foley were on defense and when Madigan saw that Portland got called and San Diego did not........well he went nuts.........as a former high school and college player myself out of Minnesota, THAT was the first tine I ever saw a player hit a referee, and with the butt end of his stick and knocked the ref out face down on the ice......my dad was so pissed he got out of his chair and started to climb pver the glass to get Madigan, but street shoes don't work well on ice like skates do, and the usher pulled my dad down off the glass.the 32 ounce beers were just a flying on Madigan as he left the ice for the locker room.........he got doused........and I think he was trying to get up in the stands after the folks who did that too him...........and from that game on, he was suspended for the rest of that season and a good part of the next one...first time I have seen a player do that to a ref no matter what legit sport it is and also the last time too. He was a decent player in general, but he sure could get the crowds excited with his antics at times, and he did have a hard shot. But sure was well known as the ultimate bad guy in the sport I would say. Maybe only ones who may have compared might be the old Broad Street Bullies from the Philadelphia Flyers

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