“Capt. Crunch Globensky,” Hanson wrote back. “He was a tough dude.”
Hanson’s distinguished pro career included a stop with the Johnstown (Pa.) Jets, rivals of my Nordiques in the old North American Hockey League. The Jets and the NAHL inspired the movie “Slap Shot,” which starred Paul Newman and featured Hanson and other actual Jets players.
Globensky may not have inspired a movie character, but he was one of the real characters of his day as a fixture in the Nordiques’ lineup. Nothing got the Central Maine Youth Center crowd out of its seats like Globensky assaulting an opposing player.
A native of Montreal, Quebec, Globensky was big for the era in which he played and appeared even taller thanks to a huge afro, which he complemented with a bushy mustache resembling Cap’n Crunch of cereal fame.
Globensky could be a ferocious fighter, too, but reluctantly. He was decades ahead of his time in his belief that fighting should be taken out of the game. It’s a position that I have evolved to, as well, in the face of increasing research suggesting the brain damage caused by blows to the head.
Globensky was outspoken on the matter when it wasn’t fashionable and certainly before fighting was discussed in terms of its later effect on quality of life.
Consider a Montreal Gazette article from August 1970, after Globensky’s first year with the Montreal Junior Canadiens (whose top scorer was future Buffalo Sabres legend Gilbert Perreault).
“Last season as a rookie, Globensky was used sparingly and usually only when the situation called for a policeman,” according to the Gazette. “It was a role he detested and wants to make sure doesn’t happen again before he signs this season.”
Four years later, Globensky, age 22, had completed three years of minor pro hockey. He was described this way in the Lewiston (Maine) Evening Journal:
“The six-foot, one-inch, 195 pounder, whose first love is football having grown up with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, says, flatly, ‘I hate professional hockey.’ He says he doesn’t like playing the role of the fighter, but accepts it in order to protect his teammates.”
The Alouettes offered Globensky an $8,000 contract, according to the Gazette, but he received a $5,000 bonus and $20,000 contract from the World Hockey Association’s Quebec Nordiques, Maine’s parent team.
‘A rush for a dysfunctional kid’
I reached out to Globensky via Facebook soon after reading an October 2013 article about him in the Montreal Gazette titled, “Former enforcer condemns fighting in hockey.”
“There’s nothing going to be done until a death happens at centre ice … that’s just the way it is,” he said in the Gazette article. “I feel sorry for the martyr and his wife and his family.”
I had planned to write about Globensky then but kept putting it aside for various reasons. I just came across his name while reading “Black Ice: The Val James Story,” a 2015 book about the first African-American in the National Hockey League.
James describes Globensky’s “cool 1970s afros” and an on-ice “minor skirmish” that continued in the penalty boxes when James was with the Erie (Pa.) Blades.
Globensky had moved back to Canada after living in Maine upon the conclusion of his playing career. In Maine, he was a firefighter, ran a hockey rink, and did color commentary on junior hockey radio broadcasts.
“Clearly you were tough and good at fighting,” I wrote to him. “But did you always hate it? Or did you just feel that you had a lot more to offer but [that] your coaches didn’t see it?”
Globensky often writes in a stream of conscious style, capitalizing words for emphasis. I have edited his response for readability.
“On any little person’s team I played on, I was nowhere near being in the top five talent-wise,” he wrote. “PASSION-wise was a completely different story, and I truly loved to play football. Actually, I think I was born to play football, colliding with people LEGALLY was my life as a teenager.
“Hockey became an EGO thing, 17 years old and thousands of people yelling for me to get on the ice, WOW! What a rush for a very dysfunctional kid. I made that team in junior for one reason and one reason only, but they didn’t tell me that goin’ in. I always thought I’d get more than a fleeting few moments on the ice to develop more confidence and then talent, but that was not to be.”
He added that “hate is not a strong enough word to describe how I’ve always felt about fighting, but it makes money here in North America.”
Kids taught ‘how to hurt’
If he hated it so much, I asked, how did he summon the courage to do it?
“COURAGE! Are you kidding me? Soldiers, police and firefighters, those are jobs that you have courage. My personality is one that sticks up for the guy gettin’ pushed around.”
He said hockey is “reapin’ the results of a few decades of kids being taught how to HURT someone. Run him through the boards, get your stick up when you see him coming, get the guy out from in front of the net by any means including cross-checking him. If he’s got his head down, BURY HIM.
“No doubt, we had a few FRUITCAKES in our time, and I may have been one of them, that is for other people to decide, but there was a lot more respect for both the officials and the rules they used to use.”
He raised the issue of fear. He said he once called a friend from his hockey-playing days who he described as the “TOUGHEST hockey player I have ever seen,” and asked him whether he was ever afraid before a game.
“He burst out laughing,” Globensky wrote, “then said, ‘Al, think of all the times we wasted being scared shitless.’ ”
In “Slap Shot,” Paul Newman makes reference to “those punks from Syracuse.” In the NAHL’s first season, the real-life Syracuse Blazers had three players with 285 or more penalty minutes, including the legendary (and blond afroed) Bill Goldthorpe, the inspiration for the Ogie Oglethorpe character in “Slap Shot.”
By comparison, Globensky had 256 penalty minutes across four seasons (168 games) with Maine.
Globensky told me that the days and even weeks before a Syracuse game were, “HELL. No wonder I self-medicated myself.
“But something clicked either in the dressing room getting ready for the game, or in the warm-up: OK, ain’t nowhere to go, let’s get it on.”