CHARLESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA, SEPTEMBER 27 -- Reggie "Reg" Dunlop, the one-time player-coach of the Charlestown Chiefs who lifted the spirits of the battered town by leading the team to a Federal League championship in its last season, died in his sleep in a retirement community in Fort Myers, Florida.
"Time catches up to us all, but I guess never figured it would catch up to Reggie," said former Chiefs winger Ned Braden from his home in Malibu, California, where he's established a career as a movie producer. "I guess I could tell you that Reg taught me a lot about life, but it sure as heck wasn't anything I'd want to pass on to anyone," Braden said in between stifled laughs.
Believed to be a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Dunlop enjoyed a more or less undistinguished career in minor league hockey in the Northeast and Midwestern U.S. for the better part of three decades without getting an opportunity to play in the NHL. But he finally found something of a home, if only for a brief while, after joining the Chiefs at the end of the 1974 season. Winning fans with his gritty play on the ice and his reputation as a charming con man and womanizer off of it, Dunlop was eventually named player coach of the moribund franchise for the 1975-76 season.
Once again, success eluded Dunlop, as the Chiefs meandered through the better part of a season and a half playing uninspired hockey, until rather unexpectedly, the team's fortune's changed on the ice even as the luck of its hometown went bad. In the Spring of 1977, only days after US Steel announced that the mill that had employed the people of Charlestown for the better part of five decades would close forever, the Chiefs went on a run that would end in the team's only championship in the last year of its existence, an event chronicled in the popular hockey documentary, Slap Shot.
It wasn't long afterwards that ownership, acknowledging the Chiefs could not survive without the mill, announced that the team would fold as well at the end of the season. But keyed by the acquisition of Jeff, Steve and Jack Hanson, collectively known as the Hanson Brothers, from the since defunct Iron League, the Chiefs cut a path of destruction through the rest of the Federal League for the remainder of the season.
Rising from the bottom of the standings to qualify for the playoffs with a style of play that was descibed at the time by The Hockey News as "borderline homicidal," the Chiefs literally fought their way to the league Finals against the Syracuse Bulldogs, where the Chiefs won the deciding game by forfeit in the aftermath of mid-game riot keyed by an impromptu striptease by Braden.
As planned, the team folded at the end of the season, as Dunlop announced he had been hired as head coach of the Minnesota Nighthawks. But for some reason, the job in Minnesota never materialized, and Dunlop spent the rest of his career bouncing between obscure minor league posts and odd hockey jobs before finally settling in Florida with longtime companion, Anita McCambridge.
Dunlop is survived by his estranged wife, Francine, of Glen Cove, New York. Though they had not been together since that last season in Charlestown, they never divorced.
Our condolences to Mr. Newman's friends and family. Hockey fans everywhere owe him a debt we can never repay.
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