Wednesday, May 23, 2012


by Daniel Cote

Propper battling in front of the net for the North Stars in 1991.
Before signing on with the North Stars in 1990, Brian Propp had a brilliant ten-year career with the Philadelphia Flyers.  He signed as the Flyers first-round pick in 1979 following a legendary junior hockey career (in fact, in 1999 he was named as the left-wing on the All-Time Canadian Juniors team... the others to make up the team: Mario Lemieux, Guy LaFleur, Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin, and Bernie Parent).  He played on a line with Flyers greats Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach, scored 34 goals, picked up 41 assists, and made the All-Star team as the Flyers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Propper's star continued to shine in the City of Brotherly Love throughout the '80s.  He made five trips to the All-Star Game while in Philly and helped lead them to three Stanley Cup Finals appearances (1985 and 1987, in addition the the previously mentioned 1980).  He is a member of the Flyers Hall of Fame and is third on the team's all-time scoring list, only behind legends Bob Clarke and Bill Barber.  Former linemate Clarke traded him to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline in 1990 and he made his fourth Finals appearance that year.  A new sweater didn't change his Cup luck, though, as the Edmonton Oilers took care of the Bruins, making Propp 0 for 4 in the Finals.

A free agent following that season, Propp was reunited with Clarke in Minnesota.  He had a great comeback year during the regular season, finishing third on the team with 73 points (and second on the team with 47 assists).  He stepped up his play even further during the playoffs, scoring 23 points in 23 games during the North Stars' Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup Finals.  Included in that total were eight power play goals -- a franchise record that still stands.

Ultimately, a Stanley Cup was not in the cards for Propper.  The North Stars lost the the Penguins in six games, making him winless in five career Finals appearances.  There were more milestones to pass before his career was over, though.  During the 1991-92 season, Propp scored his 400th career goal while playing for the North Stars.  After a three-season run at the Met Center, Propp signed with the Hartford Whalers for the 1993-94 campaign.  In his final NHL season he surpassed the 1,000 point and 1,000 game plateaus.

North Stars Preservation Society:  You're a legend in Philadelphia.  You were a five-time NHL All-Star and you're third on the Flyers career scoring list, but Minnesota fans probably know you best for the three years you spent here, including the 1991 team that made the great run to the Stanley Cup Finals.  You signed with the North Stars as a free agent in 1990.  Why did you pick Minnesota?

Brian Propp:  The year before I was traded at the trading deadline to Boston and I ended up going to the Finals with them.  I was a free agent at the end of the year.  Bob Clarke was the general manager of the Flyers and at the end of the year they fired him and Paul Holmgren took over.  Bob Clarke went to Minnesota and hired Bob Gainey, and then started talking to me.  Looking at the Minnesota North Stars, they had a really talented team and really good players for a while.  Clarke brought Bobby Smith and myself in.  Both of us were a little bit older and brought some leadership in to help solidify the whole team, especially in the playoffs.  I always liked what Bob Clarke did and I always knew the Minnesota North Stars would have a good team, so that made my choice pretty easy.

NSPS:  What are some of your favorite memories from your time here in Minnesota?

BP:  It was a great city to play in.  A hockey city.  When I first got there it was very sparse as far as the fan base at the games.  I remember at the first few games there were only five to seven thousand people there.  But by the end of the year we had the place rockin' and it was filled and we kind of solidified the team for a couple more years with the fan support by going to the Stanley Cup Finals that first year I was there.  Also, playing with some great young players.  Getting a chance to play with Dave Gagner and Mike Modano was a thrill for me.  As a bit of an older player trying to give back to the young ones and teach them, we had a pretty good unit that we did pretty well with.  As you get a little older -- and that was my twelfth season -- getting to the Stanley Cup Finals is always what you shoot for.  That year we just barely got in the playoffs, but we beat the number one team overall in the Chicago Blackhawks and we beat the number two team overall in the St. Louis Blues.  Then we won against the Edmonton Oilers, who had won the Cup the year before.  Then we came up a little short against the Pittsburgh Penguins.  But getting to the Finals is so difficult and having that opportunity, winning game one, and trying to win the Stanley Cup was the biggest memory that I have.

NSPS:  Yes, and you were outstanding individually in the playoffs that year, too.  You had 23 points in the playoffs that year including eight goals.  Did you know or do you remember that all eight of your playoff goals that year were power play goals?

BP:  They were, yes.  I should've had a few more on the regular shift, too!  The power play carried us through the playoffs that year.  We beat Chicago because they were so undisciplined.  We basically beat them on the power play.  We had a fabulous power play that year and that helped take us to the Stanley Cup Finals and we almost won the Cup with that.

NSPS:  That season, personally, was my favorite hockey memory.  I was 13 that spring and that was my greatest memory as a North Stars fan.

BP:  It was exciting.  Then the following year we ended up getting the opportunity to go back to the playoffs but we lost in the first round to Detroit.  That's not as memorable, losing in the first round, but it was a lot tougher.  Teams were ready for us during the regular season so it was a tougher battle all season.  Also that year, I ended up with a dislocated shoulder.  I missed a lot of games and wasn't 100% going into the playoffs.

NSPS:  I'd imagine it was harder to sneak up on teams that year.

BP:  Sure.  Same thing with rookie players and rookie goaltenders.  That first time around, a lot of times they're more successful because people don't have a book on them.  It gets more difficult as people get to know your style, know how you play.  You've got to keep improving.

NSPS:  I solicited fans on the North Stars Facebook page for questions to ask, and many who responded wanted me to ask you about "The Guffaw."  Would you care to explain your signature celebration?

Doing "The Guffaw" in Philly.
BP:  The Guffaw!  Sure!   I have the whole story on my website, but basically I ended up getting that from Howie Mandel.  He used to go to Atlantic City every year to do a show.  I was at one of his shows and during the show he said, "Hey, if you guys wanna mess up the next comedian that comes to town, rather than clap or cheer, wave like this and go 'Guffaw! Guffaw!' Wouldn't that be gufunny?"  And I thought that was kind of cool.  This was in the mid '80s.  I told my buddy who I was at the show with that I needed a little more personality after I scored and the next year I was going to start that.  Which I did, and it caught on.  To this day it's still a pretty big part of me.  When I see people they're doing the Guffaw to me, so that's pretty cool. 

NSPS:  Well it's part of your image now.  And it will be forever!  Back to hockey, a big topic over the last couple of years in the NHL has been concussions.  You had a pretty high profile one when you were hit by Chris Chelios in the Flyers-Canadiens playoff series in 1989.  You came back and played within the next few games, though, right?

BP:  I did.  It was the first game in '89 when he hit me.  I remember playing in the sixth game, so that was maybe a week later.  I did okay in that game, but we lost out.  They went to the Finals and we went home.  I think today the concussion issue is being addressed a lot more because there's a lot more knowledge on it.  Every player gets the baseline testing and their physicals at the beginning of the year, and teams and coaches and doctors know that their players are more at-risk.  They have better ways of knowing if someone has a concussion pretty quickly and know to not let them back out on the ice.  They take the precautions and hold them out for a bit.  There have been a lot of players that have retired because of concussions in the last couple of years.  There seem to be more hits from behind.  There doesn't seem to be as much respect in the league, the way I see it.  Maybe it's because there's more money at stake for the players and guys don't want to lose their job so they do whatever they can to keep it.  I just see a lot more hitting from behind and guys not letting up or knowing when to hit somebody, or guys even putting themselves in bad positions to get hit.  And I'm not even sure if that's not because of these rule changes where you're not allowed to stand somebody up as they're coming into the zone.  I feel bad for defensemen now, they just get cranked all day long.

NSPS:  In hindsight, do you think you came back from that concussion too early?

BP:  No, no.  I was okay.  There are two types of concussions.  One is when you get hit and it's on the memory side of your brain.  The other side, where a lot of players really struggle, is the equilibrium and balance.  Those are the guys that don't feel well.  They can't drive.  It just takes a lot longer to heal.  For me it was the memory side, which you know... to this day my wife says I've got a good excuse.  But I was okay, I just had to be mentally prepared to go out there and play my game.  I think I had a goal and an assist in the game, too.  It took a couple of years.  Going into the corner you get that reflex, maybe you watch out a little bit, but I got over that, too. 

NSPS:  You finished your career with over 1,000 points, which puts you in pretty exclusive company.  Did you pay much attention to statistics and individual honors?  And was 1,000 points a goal of yours?  Or was that all just something you thought of after the fact?

BP:  I was always a team player, but anytime you're close to a career milestone... of course I was looking at it with Hartford in that last year.    I got my 1,000th point and my 1,000 game in the same month and those were two milestones that I definitely wanted to get.  Once I hit them I was able to go sign a contract to play in France the following year without worrying about it.  I think if I had been just short I would have wanted to do whatever I could to hook on with another team to try to get that.  And the following year was the lockout year, so I was glad that I got it when I did.

NSPS:  What was it like playing in Hartford?

BP:  We had some talented players, just fell a little too far behind in the middle part of the season to make the playoffs.  A little disappointing, but I got to play with Chris Pronger in his first year in the league. And Brad McCrimmon was there, and a bunch of guys that I knew and had played with.  We worked hard, it was just disappointing that we didn't get into the playoffs.

NSPS:  Getting back to the North Stars, we touched a little bit earlier on the year after the Stanley Cup Finals run.  The 1991-92 season was the year where the new black uniforms were unveiled, replacing the classic "N" logo with the word "Stars."  Did you think that was a sign that there were thoughts of moving the team?

Autographed 1991-92 Upper Deck card
BP:  Yeah, I think everybody knew that.  There was a lot of talk about that with Norm Green, that he had been looking around.  As players, we still had a job to do so mentally we just had to not let that bother our play.  Because no matter what we still had a job to perform.  And there was not much we could really do but play our best.  You want to make sure you keep your job.  That was just kind of my thought process.  Mentally, I always try to be prepared.  You block out the negatives and concentrate on what you have to do to be successful. 

NSPS:  What is Brian Propp doing these days?

BP:  I work for the Judge Group.  If you see my website we have a good description there.  We have an office in Minnesota.  We have 27 offices throughout the U.S.  I'm helping to develop Canada and we're also in China.  Basically what our company does is technology consulting.  A large percentage of our work is staffing, whether it's contract workers or firm workers.  We also have a training company and a unified communications audio/video company, and a mobile app division.  We work with the United Health Group.  We have a health care and medical practice.  We do a lot of staffing and help a lot of people find work. 

NSPS:  Are you still involved in hockey?

BP:  We have a Flyer Alumni.  We play about 8 to 10 games during the year.  It's fun to be involved with that.  This past season I did a TV show with Lou Tilley, a sports broadcaster here.  So every week I was doing a little show on the Philadelphia Flyers.  That's on  We just finished up our last show this past week because the Flyers are out of the playoffs, but I did that all season long and may do that next year, too.

NSPS:  Have you been watching much of this year's playoffs?

BP:  The playoffs have been awesome.  Great hockey!  It's quite a battle, so we'll see what happens.  L.A.'s playing really well.  And the Devils and Rangers is a pretty good series, too.

Linkage: (official website)
Propper Hockey on livestream