Shortly before midnight on June 2, former National Hockey League player Brian Spencer and his friend Greg Cook parked their pickup truck in front of the adandoned city hall on Avenue E in Riviera Beach, Fla., 100 km north of Miami. Spencer and Cook had just bought $12 worth of crack—an impure, solid form of cocaine that is smoked. According to Cook, a white Buick or Oldsmobile pulled alongside. A black male got out of the car, approached the driver’s side of the pickup, pulled out a revolver and demanded money. Cook handed the man about $3, but Spencer refused. The man then pointed the gun through the open window and shot Spencer. The bullet from the .357 magnum or .38-calibre gun passed through his left arm and heart. At 12:12 a.m. on June 3, Spencer was dead on arrival at a local hospital. He was 39.
Tragedy and violence stalked Spencer most of his adult life. In 1970, RCMP officers shot and killed his father, Roy, outside a Prince George, B.C., TV station. He had fired a shotgun at the police after forcing the station off the air at gunpoint because it was not broadcasting a game in which his son was playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Then, last October, Brian Spencer was acquitted of the 1982 kidnapping and murder of Michael Dalfo of West Palm Beach, Fla. In almost 10 years in the NHL, playing for the Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, Spencer was known as “Spinner” for his freewheeling and pugnacious style. Using his fists almost as often as his stick, he scored just 80 goals but spent more than 101/2 hours in the penalty box.
After retiring in 1979, Spencer, a native of Fort St. James, B.C., moved to Florida and worked as a mechanic. The day before he was killed, Spencer— twice divorced and the father of two sons and three daughters—agreed to do a promotional tour this fall for Toronto author Martin O’Malley’s upcoming book Gross Misconduct: The Life of Spinner Spencer. According to O’Malley, Spencer received numerous death threats during his trial. Said O’Malley: “My reaction is they finally got him. An investigator in the Palm Beach public defender’s office told me Spencer was assassinated.”
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.