I recall watching a Leaf game, assuming it was against the Oilers, and The Great One Himself was levelled by a 'Bendover' check as his head was turned, not watching where he was going. The hit obviously caught him off guard, as HNIC turned the mic's off, but his cursing was heard in the background and that angry face was unmistakable. He did not come in front of the cameras for that intermission, but the next one he came on and heroically said, 'It was a clean check!' Me thinks his agent had been in touch.
Well, I asked Liam McGuire if the hit was from Farrish? He said no, but I am pretty sure it was, as he didn't play for the Leafs much longer. It was an amazing...'I think I'll bend over here and stop!'...Hit! Gretz clearly was angry and shaken up as he flew tea over kettle! Lol! I was, and an still, a Leaf fan. Was just wondering if you might be able to enlighten me? Whatever happened to Farrish?
When I received your question in the mail bag I recalled the incident vividly from the Leafs-Oilers game played on January 3, 1981. My friend Liam McGuire was correct in that it was not Dave Farrish who delivered the devastating, open-ice hit on Wayne Gretzky - although Farrish was credited with a hard hit on Kevin Lowe in that game. The Leafs rookie, playing in his 2nd NHL game, who dared catch The Great One with his head down was Bill McCreary Jr. - not the former referee that worked along side me for a number of years, but his cousin with the same name. Bill Jr. is the son of former NHLer Bill McCreary Sr, nephew of former NHLers Keith McCreary and Ron Attwell.
Very seldom did Gretzky not know where everyone on the ice was in the moment, or for that matter in the future! This was an anomaly early in Gretz's NHL career and many speculate that it all but ended Bill McCreary's! McCreary went on to play 10 more games in the NHL for the Leafs, recording one goal, no assists and four penalty minutes. The Colgate University grad, a Leafs 6th round pick in the 1979 Entry Draft played the rest of his career in the AHL, CHL and IHL. McCreary retired at the end of his 1987-88 IHL season.
On the huge hit delivered by McCreary, Gretzky had just received a pass one-handed and cut across the Leafs blue line with a lowered, forward-bend posture. McCreary anticipated the play perfectly and stepped up to level Gretzky with a full-frontal hit that today could very well be regarded as an illegal check to the head and probable suspension. It was great to see my old training camp roommate and friend, veteran NHL referee Wally Harris working that game. One of the all-time best...
Check out the hit for yourself on the attached YouTube link.
As you saw in the footage, Gretzky really got his bell rung and laid on the ice for some time in considerable distress. There is no question The Great One was upset and angry once he got back on his skates. I have to cut him some slack on any cursing that may have occurred because, given the extent of impact his head sustained, I doubt very much if he was responsible for his behavior in the short term. Once the cobwebs cleared, the Wayne Gretzky that appeared on the 2nd intermission interview was the Great Ambassador to the Game and the NHL that we saw throughout his record setting career. Wayne, ever the ambassador, continues his good work for both the NHL and and recently named partner and VP of the Edmonton Oilers.
Postscript: On July 7, 2015 Dave Farrish was hired by Patrick Roy and the Colorado Avalanche as an assistant coach. Farrish continues in that capacity, along with Tim Army, Nolan Pratt and goaltending coach, Francois Allaire, under Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar.