No one has ever been called "the next Bobby Orr." But Bryan Fogarty, who smashed Bobby Orr's junior scoring records, was definitely compared to Paul Coffey, Bobby Orr's closest offensive comparison.
Bryan's incredible junior career started with the Kingston Canadians. He was drafted 9th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1987, two years before his record setting season of 1988-89. For three seasons in Kingston Bryan showed he had all the tools to be a offensive defenseman in the NHL. But following a trade to the Niagara Falls Thunder in 1988, Bryan exploded into super-prospect status as he launched an all-out assault of Orr's legendary stats.
Bryan scored 47 goals, 108 assists for 155 points to become the first defenseman in major junior hockey history to win a scoring title. In the process, Bryan's 47 goals shattered the mark for goals in a season by a defenceman (38), set by Bobby Orr in 1965-66 and equaled by Al MacInnis in 1982-83. His 108 assists broke the record for assists in a season by a defenceman (96) set by Doug Crossman of the Ottawa 67's in 1979-80. His 155 points bettered Denis Potvins record of 123, set in 1972-73. Bryan also broke the Canadian Hockey League record for points by a defenceman (140), set by Cam Plante in 1983-84.
"I don't think you ever go in expecting a year like that," Bryan said. "I was just hoping to maybe get 20 goals and 70 assists and stay out of trouble."
That sounds simple enough, but that leads us to the other side of the Bryan Fogarty story. The story that eventually won out and ruined his career and more importantly his life.
Bryan's junior career was tainted years before his incredible season. Bryan has been battling alcohol dependency since the age of 14. Off ice suspensions and curfew violations were frequent for the 6'2" 200lb Brantford Ontario native. He was kicked off the Canadian National junior team in 1987 for heavy drinking (and never invited back). He was also convicted of impaired driving causing a vehicle accident.
Despite his off ice trouble, the Nords didn't want to pass up on perhaps the best hockey talent to come out in years. They selected Bryan ahead of names like Eric Desjardins, Joe Sakic, John Leclair and Stephane Quintal.
Bryan's off ice problems continued to haunt him in the professional ranks. He checked into a drug and alcohol rehab clinic in just his second year in the league, but that proved to be a temporary fix for Bryan. His alcoholism caused numerous headaches for every team he played for, and those teams would just shuffle the problem onto another team or minor league team. You'd hope that the team would just sit the guy down and give him the help he needs. Then again, no one can help someone who doesn't first want the help.
The Nords gave up on Bryan in 1992 after three years of showing next to nothing on the ice. The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired the defenseman in exchange for Scott Young late in the 1991-92 season but soon released him. The Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres signed him as a free agent in 1993, 1994 and 1995 respectively, but he spent most of his time bouncing around various minor league teams. Bryan jumped to Europe and lowly North American minor leagues after NHL opportunities ran out, but never really showed any signs at any professional level of being anywhere close to the player he was in junior.
Bryan scored 22 goals, 54 assists and 74 points in 156 NHL games.
In 1999 Bryan's troubles continued when he was arrested for breaking and entering into a Brantford Ontario college. He was allegedly found standing naked in a kitchen with cooking oil spilled all over the floor. He also possessed cocaine, police said.
Bryan Fogarty had it all. He likely wouldn't have been the next Bobby Orr or even Paul Coffey, but he could have been a good offensive defenseman in the NHL. He had the size, skating ability, hands and vision to be a legitimate power play quarterback. Alcoholism ruined his chances at succeeding, not just at hockey, but at life.
That life came to a tragic end on March 6th, 2002, at the age of just 32. He was found dead in a motel room in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where he was vacationing. The official cause of death was cardiac arrest thanks to an enlarged heart.
ESPN Magazine had an excellent feature of Fogarty's life and death called Wasted.