1969 NHL Amateur Draft Pick
Round Overall
5 55
Brian Spencer
Selected by Toronto from Swift Current (WCHL)
Toronto Maple Leafs Swift Current Broncos
Brian Spencer

5-foot-11, 175 pounds

Left-hand shot

Left Wing

Pre-Draft Statistics

Year Team League GP G A TP PIM
1967-68 Regina WCJHL 23 1 2 3 12
 Calgary  WCJHL 34 13 10 23 27
1968-69 Estevan-SC  WCHL 53 19 29 48 120

Pre-Draft Notes

Had never played organized hockey prior to entering WCJHL in 1967.
Canadian • Born Sept. 3, 1949 in Fort St. James, B.C. • Hometown: Fort St. James • Died June 3, 1988

Career Vitals

First contract: 1969
Debut: March 21, 1970
(Toronto at St. Louis)
Final NHL game: October 25, 1978
(Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis)
Retired: 1980
Stanley Cup: Never won
Numbers worn: 15, 22 (Toronto); 9 (N.Y. Islanders);
21 (Buffalo); 22 (Pittsburgh)

Career NHL Statistics

Teams: Toronto, N.Y. Islanders, Buffalo, Pittsburgh
Years: 1970-1978. Playoffs: 1971-1977

Regular Season
10 years 553 80 143 223 634
Stanley Cup Playoffs
4 years 37 1 5 6 29
Complete statistics available at NHL.com 

Career Highlights

Also played right wing during pro career. ... Played on first New York Islanders team in 1972-73 and appeared in franchise's first game on Oct. 7, 1972, vs. Atlanta at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. ... Was one of only two N.Y. Islanders players (with Billy Harris) to appear in all 78 of the team's games in its inaugural 1972-73 season. ... Won N.Y. Islanders Booster Club Most Popular Player Award for 1972-73. ... Played on Buffalo team that lost to Philadelphia in 1975 Stanley Cup Finals. ... Won Buffalo Tim Horton Memorial Award (Unsung Hero) in 1975-76. ... Played 30 regular season games for 1979-80 Hershey team that won 1980 AHL Calder Cup, but retired before playoffs.

Significant Injuries

Missed start of Toronto's 1970 training camp with damaged ligament in knee, an injury suffered while working at an off-season hockey school. ... Missed part of 1973-74 season with dislocated left shoulder. ... Missed part of 1974-75 with separated left shoulder, an injury that forced him to play much of the season with a brace. He had off-season surgery on the shoulder in June 1975. ... Had off-season knee surgery in summer of 1976.

Transaction History

June 6, 1972 -- Claimed by N.Y. Islanders from Toronto in NHL Expansion Draft. March 10, 1974 -- Traded by N.Y. Islanders to Buffalo in exchange for Doug Rombough. Sept. 20, 1977 -- Traded by Buffalo to Pittsburgh in exchange for Ron Schock.

The Death of Brian Spencer

Spencer's troubled life ended at the age of 38, when he died moments after midnight on the night of June 2, 1988, in South Florida. Police said Spencer had been shot to death after purchasing some crack cocaine. The police report of the incident said that Spencer and a friend named Gregory Scott Cook had been driving through a seedy section of Riviera Beach between 11 p.m. and midnight, looking to purchase drugs. Cook told police that he and Spencer bought one rock of crack and then Cook drove several blocks before stopping his pickup truck. While the truck was stopped, another two men in a white car pulled up behind it, and then one of the men walked over to the driver's side window, where Cook was sitting. The man demanded money from Cook and Spencer in a robbery that appeared unrelated to the drug deal. Cook gave the man the only $3 he had. Spencer offered nothing, perhaps because he had no money or was resisting the demand, and then the man shot Spencer in the left arm with a bullet that went straight through his heart before stopping in his abdomen. Sadly, Spencer had been told by his attorney, Barry Weinstein, to leave Palm Beach County just a short time before the shooting, because Weinstein suspected danger there. In fact, Spencer allegedly had no intention of purchasing drugs that night until Cook arrived at his home and asked him to come out and help repair another friend's car. While he was out with Cook, the two went to a local bar and then Cook allegedly decided to buy drugs, asking Spencer to join him. Spencer was shot in an area where police said he had been known to have purchased drugs several times in the past. Cook, a convicted former drug dealer himself, rushed Spencer to a nearby fire station. He was taken to St. Mary's Hospital in West Palm Beach and pronounced dead at 12:12 a.m. on the morning of June 3.  A memorial service was held June 9, 1988, in Spencer's hometown of Fort St. James, B.C.

Two suspects were soon questioned in connection with Spencer's murder. They were 36-year-old Leon "Lump" Daniels of Riviera Beach and 31-year-old Larry Willie Johnson, also of Riviera Beach. Police did not have enough evidence to arrest the men, but on June 28, almost four weeks after the murder, Daniels turned himself in to police, saying that although he had been in the car behind Spencer's he was not the one who pulled the trigger. Before he was taken into custody, Daniels ran away from the police station, having refused to identify his accomplice. Daniels fled to Oklahoma and managed to avoid being capture until December 1988, when his mother persuaded him to cooperate with police in the hope of a lighter sentence. At first, Daniels claimed that he and Johnson had targeted Cook and Spencer because they had used a counterfeit $100 bill to buy crack from them. However, Daniels later recanted that story and said that the whole thing was part of a botched robbery attempt -- meaning that Spencer was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He said Johnson had come up with the idea of a random robbery for some extra money. Johnson asked Daniels to drive his mother's car, while he sat beside him in search of a victim. When Johnson saw Cook's pickup truck, he told Daniels to stop the car. Daniels said Johnson then got out of the car, walked over to the pickup truck, and pointed a gun at Cook. Daniels said the robbery appeared to be going smoothly before something happened that caused Johnson to fire at the person in the passenger's seat. Daniels' story matched Cook's and led to a Sept. 12, 1989, plea bargain for Daniels in which he pled guilty to second-degree murder, robbery, and attempted robbery in exchange for an 18-year prison sentence. Daniels also agreed to testify against Johnson, who had immediately claimed that Daniels was the murderer after being charged in the case. On Dec. 19, 1989, Johnson also pled guilty to second-degree murder, as well as attempted armed robbery, armed robbery with a firearm, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He received 40 years in prison for the murder charge and a 15-year concurrent sentence for the other charges.

Tragic Loss of His Father

Spencer's father, Roy Spencer, was shot dead during a stand-off with Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Dec. 12, 1970, to conclude a bizarre incident during his son's rookie year in NHL. At home in Forst St. James, British Columbia, Roy Spencer, then 57, had planned to watch Brian play for Toronto in a home game vs. Chicago that was televised nationally on Hockey Night in Canada. Roy was obviously excited about the game, since he had been pushing Brian toward a pro hockey career his whole life. The game vs. Chicago would be only Brian's third game of the season following a call-up from Tulsa, and the first to be televised nationally. Roy had heard from Brian before the game that his son was going to be the broadcast's interview guest during the second intermission. Unfortunately, Roy was unable to watch the game because Hockey Night in Canada was showing viewers in British Columbia a game between the first-year Vancouver Canucks and the California Seals. Prior to that season, Roy Spencer had always been able to watch Toronto games, but the addition of the Canucks had changed the local broadcast priorities. Roy Spencer did not understand why he could not watch Brian's game on TV and became enraged. Carrying his handgun, he got in his car and drove two hours to the headquarters of CKPG, the CBC network affiliate station in Prince George, B.C. When he got there, Roy Spencer took the employees hostage and demanded them to stop broadcasting entirely, presumably as punishment for not having shown the Toronto game. The RCMP arrived on the scene and demanded Spencer surrender, but he refused. The angry Roy Spencer shot a constable in the foot while resisting arrest, and the gunfire was returned -- resulting in Roy Spencer's death. Later,was informed that his father had died. Rather than go home, Spencer opted to play in the following day's game at Buffalo, where he had three assists.

Cleared of Murder Charge

Spencer moved to South Florida after his retirement and struggled with alcohol and drug addiction as he attempted to transition to life outside of hockey. His life took a turn for the worse on Jan. 18, 1987, when he was arrested in West Palm Beach, Fla., and charged with the Feb. 4, 1982, murder of Palm Beach Gardens restaurant owner Michael James Dalfo, whose father was a prominent South Florida Realtor. Spencer was held without bail at the Palm Beach County Jail after pleading not guilty to first-degree murder and kidnapping charges on Jan. 22. It was a death-penalty case, based on ssecret testimony presented to a Grand Jury by Spencer's former girlfriend, a reported prostitute who worked for an escort service. The woman claimed Spencer was the last person she saw with Dalfo, even though she had not seen a murder take place. A warrant for Spencer's arrest was first issued on Dec. 8, 1986. Although nearly five years had passed since the murder, and the case had only recently been reopened, police said Spencer had been a suspect all along. Dalfo, who had been shot twice in the head, was an acquaintance of Spencer's at the time of his death, and police said the murder involved some sort of revenge for mistreatment of Spencer's girlfriend, whom Dalfo had hired as an escort. Dalfo's own parents questioned the accusation, since they didn't believe their son even knew Spencer as police claimed. Spencer's own friends were also convinced Spencer was not involved in Dalfo's murder, saying that he was not capable of such a crime. Spencer's trial in West Palm Beach lasted roughly one week, and on Oct. 16, 1987, jurors needed only one hour of deliberations before declaring that he was not guilty of Dalfo's murder. Spencer had an alibi in the form of a bartender who said he was with Spencer at his workplace during the supposed time of the murder. The turning point, however, came when the defense showed that the escort service Spencer's ex-girlfriend worked for was involved in the kind of illicit activities that suggested numerous people actually associated with taht business -- other than Spencer -- were more likely to have been responsible. Although he was cleared, the experience devastated Spencer. A book by Martin O'Malley called Gross Misconduct: The Life of Spinner Spencer , published after his death in the fall of 1988, focused on this part of his life as well as his childhood and the story of his father's death. Spencer was said to be excited about the book and looking forward to its publication, since it was going to help clear his name for good. O'Malley's book was later adapted into a made-for-television movie, which first aired in Canada on Feb. 28, 1993.

Life Outside the NHL

Full Name: Brian Roy Spencer
Nickname: "Spinner"

Other Post-Draft Teams: Tulsa (CHL); Binghamton, Springfield, Hershey (AHL)

Career Beyond Hockey: Worked as a mechanic and truck driver in Palm Beach County, Fla., in the year's prior to his 1987 arrest.


Selected by Winnipeg Jets in 1972 WHA Draft -- the first-ever WHA Draft -- in February 1972. Scored first NHL hat trick, in Toronto's 5-2 home win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 9, 1971. Nicknamed "Spinner" for his unique style of rapidly changing direction while on the forecheck. Owned a sporting good store in Tulsa, Okla., during his NHL playing days.
Total Selected: 84
Forwards: 58
Defense: 18
Goaltenders: 8
Major Junior: 68
College Players: 8
Canadian: 78
Euro-Canadian: 1
American: 4
European: 1
Reached NHL: 49
Won Stanley Cup: 10
Hall of Fame: 1
All-Star Game: 7
Year-end All-Star: 1
Olympians: 2
Picks Traded: 11


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