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July 31, 1955|
Saint-Prime, QC, CAN
|Died||August 12, 2008
Birmingham, AL, USA
|Height||6 ft 1 in (185 cm)|
|Weight||215 lb (98 kg; 15 st 5 lb)|
|WHA Draft||121st overall, 1975
Joseph Gilles Bilodeau (July 31, 1955 in Saint-Prime, Quebec - August 12, 2008 in Birmingham, Alabama) was a professional ice hockey player who played 9 games in the National Hockey League and 143 games in the World Hockey Association. He played for the Toronto Toros, Birmingham Bulls, and Quebec Nordiques.
Gilles nickname was "Bad News". He was known for his fierce aggressive style of play and his fighting ability but had limited hockey skills. Off the ice he was known to be a gentleman. He was the third of nine children.
Early in his career in his native Quebec, he earned such nicknames as Tarzan and Zombie. When the Toronto Toros of the World Hockey Association promoted him from the minors, the team unveiled him as Bad News Bilodeau, a fitting nickname for a hockey enforcer.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound left-winger played major junior hockey for the Sorel Black Hawks. In 1975, the Toros selected him No. 122 overall in the amateur league draft. He made his pro debut with the minor-league Beauce Jaros at Saint-Georges, Que.
In his first pro season, Bilodeau led the NAHL in penalty minutes, accumulating 451 minutes in just 58 games during the 1975-76 season. The eight goals and 17 assists he recorded were the highest season totals of his career.
He had been with the Jaros for a little more than a month when he became involved in a fight that would land him in court. While serving a suspension, he was sitting in the stands at War Memorial Arena at Syracuse, N.Y., when Wally Weir, another suspended teammate, rushed from his seat to shout obscenities. When a police officer intervened, the two scuffled. An off-duty officer came to aid his fellow officer, and Mr. Bilodeau and another teammate joined in the melee.
The fight in the stands attracted the attention of the Jaros, who rushed across the rink to join in. The fight ended only after Bilodeau and others were subdued with mace. Two policemen were treated at hospital with head injuries caused by blows from hockey sticks. Police charged Bilodeau with second-degree assault, as well as misdemeanour charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He was one of seven Jaros charged.
He later broke the neck of Syracuse's goalie with a cross-check from behind, ending the netminder's season and the Blazers' playoff hopes. Perhaps Bilodeau's worst offence since biting a chunk of ear from a Mohawk Valley player during a fight. Outraged sports columnists urged that he be suspended for life. Instead, he was promoted to the Toronto Toros of the WHA.
Finishing off the 1975-76 season with the Toros, he played 14 games in spot duty accumilating 1 assist and 38 penalty minutes. Next year the Toros transferred to Birmingham to become the Bulls.
During the 1976-77 season, Bilodeau split his time with the Birmingham Bulls and the Charlotte Checkers of the SHL. With Birmingham he played 34 games while scoring 2 goals and 6 assists and picking up 133 penalty minutes. In Charlotte, he had 3 goals, 6 assists and 242 penalty minutes during 28 games.
The 1977-78 season saw Bilodeau partake in the Thanksgiving Massacre during a game at Cincinnati. The Bulls lined up a forward line of Bilodeau, Steve (Demolition Durby) Durbano, and Frank (Seldom) Beaton, to start the game. Just 24 seconds had played before the fighting began when Durbano punched Stinger Jamie Hislop to signal his teammates to jump in. Later in the game, Mr. Bilodeau cut another Stinger with a high stick.
In a game at Winnipeg that month, Bilodeau earned a $1,000 fine and a three-game suspension for leaving the penalty box to engage in several fights. He would finish the 1977-78 season with 258 penalty minutes with the Bulls.
The Quebec Nordiques signed him as a free agent in 1978. In a game against the Edmonton Oilers, he made the mistake of picking on a slight centreman. The bullying caught the attention of the Oilers' Garnet (Ace) Bailey.
"One night during my rookie year, we were in Quebec City, and this huge guy, Gilles Bilodeau, kept running me, knocking me around," Wayne Gretzky told Sports Illustrated magazine several years ago. "I weighed around 146 pounds, and Bilodeau must have been 220. Ace didn't get a lot of ice time that night - in those days you didn't use fourth-line players much - and he was getting angrier and angrier at Bilodeau. Finally, Ace told me, 'Next time you have the puck, get that guy to chase you and skate in front of our bench.'
"So I did that, and a second after I went by, I heard the whistle blow and I looked back. Bilodeau was flat on the ice, and Ace and the other guys were all looking into the stands as if someone had thrown something at Bilodeau and they were trying to figure out what had happened. Ace had clocked him with his stick when he skated past."
The following season, the Nordiques were among the four WHA teams absorbed into the NHL. Bilodeau skated in nine NHL games, gaining a single assist and recording just 25 penalty minutes.
He played the 1980-81 season for the Richmond Rifles of the EHL before settling in Birmingham. He played to 2 games for the Birmingham Bulls of the ACHL during the 1983-84 season before retiring from professional hockey for good.
Bilodeau worked for former teammate Jean-Guy Lagace as a painter and deck builder before becoming a self-employed contractor. He died of undiagnosed pancreatic cancer on Aug. 12, 2008, at his home at Birmingham, Alabama. He leaves Debbie (Powell), his wife of 28 years, two sons, two grandsons, five brothers and three sisters.