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What if Wednesday: The Brian Spencer Story

The Buffalo Sabres are celebrating their 40th anniversary next season and Die by the Blade will take a look back through the history of the franchise throughout the summer. One of the features will be a weekly feature entitled What If Wednesday. A couple of months ago I read a book entitled "What If the Babe Had Kept His Red Sox?" by Bill Gutman. It inspired me to do this feature with a Buffalo Sabres flavor. 

This is the fifth week in the What If Wednesday's feature. This is another very short post and it's a stretch to add it to what if Wednesday. Earlier today I came across a story of the tragic life of ex-Buffalo Sabre Brian "Spinner" Spencer. 

Brian "Spinner" Spencer played parts of 10 seasons in the NHL and had his best years as a member of the Buffalo Sabres from 1974-1977. As someone who was born in the mid 70's, I never had an opportunity to watch Spinner Spencer play as a member of the Sabres, or at least I don't remember watching him play. I do know he had to be a special player because if you ask someone who watched him play, they will talk your ear off for hours.

While I knew very little about Spencer as a player, I knew even less about his off-ice tragedy. I came across a story from the L.A. Times via Kuklas Korner and immediately I knew this story needed to shared. It is a tragic story that would normally be seen in the movies as opposed to real life.

Just how tragic a story is it? It starts with this...

Roy Spencer was displeased, to say the least. And as he was drunk at the time, his decision-making skills were not at their highest. The irate Spencer drove 70 miles the nearest CBC broadcast station in Prince George, British Columbia (that the nearest station was 70 miles away should give you a good idea of how remote Fort St. James is). Once there, he entered the station with his shotgun and demanded that they air his son's hockey game. The station actually complied with his order (as, well, wouldn't you?). However, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police encountered Spencer and a shoot-out ensued. While Brian Spencer's Maple Leafs were defeating the Chicago Blackhawks halfway across the country, his father was shot dead by the police.


Imagine being a young hockey player, excited to be playing on Hockey Night in Canada and after the game you find out your father was shot dead by police. That alone would be enough to send most people off the edge but to find out that indirectly it was your fault because you were living your dream. It's amazing that Spencer had the strength to continue and even more amazing that he played the very next night.

Spencer seemed to get his life back on track during his time with the Islanders and the Sabres, but by the end of his hockey career things had spun out of control. He seemed to get caught up in drugs and alcohol and the story and his life, came to a tragic end in 1988.

This was a depressing story and one I was not aware of until today. If anyone has some good memories of Spencer as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, I would love to hear them in the comments.