It’s a night that will stand out as one of the finest moments in OHL history. But for Bryan Fogarty, he was just glad to get it over with.
The night that will stand out the most from his record-setting season was a 7-2 win against the London Knights on Feb. 2, 1989. That night, Fogarty scored his 38th and 39th goals to tie and break Bobby Orr and Al MacInnis’ shared record for most goals scored in a season by a defenceman. He also added three assists and eclipsed Denis Potvin’s record of 123 points.
“It was so nerve racking,” said Fogarty about the media pressure during his dream season. “It’s a great feeling breaking their records, but I don’t think it’s right that I should be compared with them. I still have a long way to go before I prove myself.”
Fogarty was hospitalized with acute bronchitis during his record-setting season. After missing nearly two weeks with the illness, Fogarty came back with a two-goal performance in a 6-3 win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. By the time he finished his assault on the OHL record book, he had racked up 47 goals, 108 assists and 155 points in 60 games. Fogarty was the runaway winner as the OHL and Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year.
“There’s no way I could have expected a year like that,” said Fogarty, who also set a record for points by a defenceman in one game when he piled up three goals and five assists against the Sudbury Wolves in November. “At the beginning of the season I just wanted to get around 30 goals and 70 assists – and that was pushing it.”
Having grown up in Brantford, Ont., Fogarty started his OHL career as a 15-year-old with the Kingston Canadians. He scored 20 goals and 70 points in his sophomore season, but was developing a reputation as a free spirit off the ice. He was traded to the Niagara Falls Thunder before his final season and admitted that the change of scenery was welcome.
“The trade was the big turning point for me,” said Fogarty, who became the first defenceman to win the OHL scoring title. “We had a terrible team in Kingston and I wasn’t having fun playing hockey. I strived to turn things around. It was a now-or-never situation for me. And it was all through hard work that everything paid off.”
Fogarty was the first of two first-round draft picks of the Quebec Nordiques in 1987. He enjoyed a pair of productive seasons in Quebec before bouncing around the NHL and minor pro teams until his retirement from the game in 2001. Sadly, alcohol battles were a struggle throughout his life and ultimately led to his death in 2002.
“The profession, the lifestyle – he couldn’t handle it,” his mother Virginia Fogarty told ESPN The Magazine. “He wanted the hockey, but it was so hard the way he was. The inside of Bryan and the world around him didn’t seem to meet.”
Fogarty’s 155-point season in 1988-89 remains far-and-away the most offensively productive by a defenceman in OHL history, a record that isn’t likely to be broken anytime soon.
Written by Aaron Bell