Brent Gogol is one of the toughest players ever to skate in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He only played 105 games over three seasons but holds a WHL record that will never be broken.
After starting the 1976-77 season with the Pincher Creek Panthers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, Gogol moved up to the Calgary Centennials to begin his WHL Career (1). After one game with the Centennials, he was traded along with Glen Cochrane and Paul Enquist to the Victoria Cougars for Mike Toal and Alvin Szott. Cougars Coach/GM, Pat Ginnell made the trade to add more size to the lineup as they were currently too small to be effective against physical teams like New Westminster and Portland. On his arrival in Victoria, Gogol was immediately inserted on a line with Bill Jobson and Geordie Robertson to replace the injured Archie Henderson. Unfortunately, Gogol had trouble scoring as he only managed one point in 35 games but brought a much-needed physical presence to the Cougars with 215 penalty minutes.
1977-78 was Gogol’s only full season in the WHL, but he made the most of it. He started the year with the Victoria Cougars but was traded on October 7th after picking up one point and 46 penalty minutes in six games. With the Bighorns, Gogol was given more ice time and proved that he could score as well as fight. On October 22nd the Bighorns visited Victoria in Gogol’s first game against his old club. Showing more offence than he ever did with the Cougars, Gogal played one of the best games of his WHL career. He scored one goal and two assists, including setting up the game-winning goal in the third period as Billings defeated Victoria 7-6.
In 61 games with the Bighorns, Gogol collected 26 points and 465 penalty minutes. Combined with the 46 minutes with the Cougars, Gogol finished the 1977-78 season with 511 (an average of 7.6 minutes per game) to establish a new WHL record. In the playoffs, Gogol accumulated another 95 penalty minutes in 20 games as Billings made it to the WHL finals.
Gogol not only set a WHL record with 511 penalty minutes but also established a Canadian junior hockey record. The previous record was 473 set by Jerry Rollins in 1974-75. Mel Hewitt, who split 1977-78 between Calgary and Saskatoon, was a close runner-up to Gogol with 508 minutes.
To this day, Gogol still holds the WHL record for penalty minutes in a single season. The current junior hockey record is 653, set by Marc-Andre Roy of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 1992-93.
Gogol's record-breaking season impressed the Minnesota North Stars, who drafted him in the 9th round of the NHL Entry Draft. In 1978-79 Gogol started the year with Billings but turned pro after two games, splitting the season with Flint and Milwaukee of the International Hockey League (IHL) and Oklahoma City of the Central Hockey League. With Flint and Milwaukee, Gogol had 441 penalty minutes, second in the IHL behind Saginaw’s Mark Toffolo with 557 penalty minutes.
In 1979-80, Gogol joined the Baltimore Clippers of the Eastern Hockey League and finished with a team-leading 327 penalty minutes. He stepped away from hockey in 1981 after appearing in 17 games for the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans. For the next few years, he worked in the Alberta oil fields but made a comeback in 1984. Glen Sather signed Gogol to a minor league contract and assigned him to the Edmonton Oilers farm club in Nova Scotia. The return only lasted five games before retiring and returning to Alberta.
After hockey, Gogol worked as an oil industry executive and was a regional scout for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the BCHL in 2014-15.
Curt Gogol, Brent’s son, followed in his father’s footsteps playing three years in the WHL from 2007-2011. As a member of the Kelowna Rockets, he won a WHL championship in 2008/09. Curt signed an entry-level contract with the San Jose Sharks at the beginning of 2010 and finished the season third in the WHL with 201 penalty minutes.
Brent Gogol has held the WHL single-season record for penalty minutes for over 40 years. Kerry Toporowski of the Spokane Chiefs came close to breaking it in 1990/91 when he amassed 505 minutes, but we will unlikely see those huge numbers again. Today’s game has less fighting and less physical play than ever before. To put it in perspective, the most penalized WHL player in 2019/20 was Cade McNelly with 110 minutes and the entire 2019/20 Winnipeg ICE team only managed 559. Hockey is never going back to the violent style of the 1970s, so it’s safe to say that Brent Gogol and his 511 penalty minutes will remain in the WHL record book forever.
(1) The Western Canada Hockey League was renamed the Western Hockey League at the beginning of the 1978-79 season.