Frank Beaton:


As told to: Jen Conway

I was never the biggest guy in the room, so I always heard “Where’s the rest of you?’ or,”Are you carryin’ Frank Beaton’s bags?” from the guys. I always had to prove myself.

My first hockey fight happened when I was fourteen. I don’t remember all the details, it was just the usual hockey fight. We weren’t even strong enough to hurt each other, and I managed to skate off under my own power. I like to call that a win. I trained a little with the Cochrane brothers, two young pro boxers in my hometown in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I only had one sanctioned bout. I fought as a middle weight right after my last year Junior at the old Arena in Windsor, Ontario. I won a unanimous decision. It was a good warmup for things to come.

I was never drafted, but I got invited to the Atlanta Flames training camp. I was thrilled to have the chance and I decided to take it very seriously. Someone was giving me the chance to prove myself and play professionally and that’s all I wanted. A chance. I didn’t make the Flames, or their farm teams. I spent the next two years battling in Flint, MI, in the IHL. But then John Brophy got me with him in the Southern league and then up to the Cincinnati Stingers and that was the start of my WHA career.

I don’t think the WHA was nearly as wild as the stories made it out to be. People focus too much on guys like me, Dave Hanson, Steve Durbano, Gilles Bilodeau, but there were a lot of skill players too. They don’t give the league nearly as much credit as it deserves. Frank Mahovlich, BobbyHull, Wayne Gretzky, Dave Keon, Gordie Howe were all Hall of Famers who played in the WHA for years. It annoys me to see that ignored sometimes. I’m very proud to have played with and against these guys.

I was never the biggest guy in the room, so I always heard “Where’s the rest of you?’ or,”Are you carryin’ Frank Beaton’s bags?” from the guys. I always had to prove myself.

Take the Birmingham Bulls for example. That was a great team with a bunch of talented guys. Frank Mahovlich, Paul Henderson, Rod Langway, Mark Napier, Kenny Linseman were all my teammates. They called that team the Bullies though. How do you think a guy like Mahovlich feels about always being asked about Bilodeau or Durbano? Frank had a great sense of humour to go along with his skill. A bunch of injuries on the team meant he was playing on a line with Dave Hanson and myself. A reporter asked him about it.  He said: “Well, I think I did better with Delvecchio and Howe.”

I was just so honoured to get to play. Every time I hit the ice was my favourite time. I especially loved playing in Madison Square Garden. The fans there are just rabid and the building was electric. I’m sorry my time there didn’t last longer. We had some pretty wild games.I still remember being part of the melee that resulted in the Bruins in the stands and Mike Milbury hitting a guy with a shoe. I scored my only NHL goal in Vancouver, so I never got to hear the Garden cheer a goal of mine. I wish I could have heard that, but I only got one.

I never had the speed or the shot other players had, but I could fight and intimidate, protect my teammates. Would I have liked to score fifty goals in a season? Of course. Who wouldn’t? But that wasn’t my role and I’m fine with that. There were times in my career I wasn’t as enthusiastic about it as other times, but I never really got sick of it. I just wanted to play, no matter the league or team.

The great thing is, all those guys I fought tooth and nail with back then are good friends now. Kurt Walker got the jump on me one game when I played for the Flint Generals, so the next game I decided to get even. During warmups, I was sort of keeping an eye on him. I saw him heading off the ice, so I got over there. There were no officials on the ice during warmups back then, so there was no one to stop me. We started fighting on the rubber mats right off the ice but we ended up on the concrete pretty quickly. Then we were on our knees swinging away at each other because it’s impossible to stand in skates on concrete. We beat each other until police separated us. Now Kurt and I are friends. The guys who fought a lot, we have a lot of respect and understanding for each other. We find each other on social media. We stay in touch.


Jen Conway



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