Ex-NHL Player, Brian Spencer, Is Shot and Killed in Florida

Associated Press

Brian Spencer, a former National Hockey League player acquitted last year of murdering a restaurant owner, died Friday of a gunshot wound to the chest.

His companion at the time of the incident, Gregory Scott Cook, told police that Spencer, 39, was shot in Cook’s truck during a robbery attempt that followed a cocaine buy late Thursday night in Riviera Beach.

But police Capt. Jerry Poreba said there are questions about Cook’s account. He emphasized, however, that Cook, 35, is not considered a suspect, and is cooperating with detectives.

Spencer, nicknamed Spinner for his style on the ice, played in the NHL from 1969 to 1979, for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.


His father, Roy Edward Spencer, was killed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1970, the same week his son broke in to the NHL with the Maple Leafs. Angered because the TV station at Prince George was not carrying the Leafs’ game, Spencer Sr., 59, held the station staff at gunpoint and was subsequently shot.

Brian Spencer was arrested in January of 1987 for the slaying of a West Palm Beach restaurateur but was acquitted in October.

Cook told police that “they had been out Thursday night partying at several bars,” then stopped to make a cocaine buy, Poreba said. After purchasing the cocaine, they stopped about 20 blocks away to look for cigarettes in Cook’s pickup truck, according to his account.

A white car then pulled up beside them, and a man carrying a large-caliber pistol got out, walked to the driver’s side of the truck and demanded money.

Then, according to Cook, the man fired a shot, hitting Spencer sitting in the passenger seat.

“The bullet went through his upper arm, into his chest cavity, into the heart and exited into the right lung,” Poreba said.

Cook said he immediately pulled away, striking the suspect’s car, and brought Spencer to a nearby fire station.

Spencer was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Mary’s Hospital early Friday. Doctors extracted a .38- or .357-caliber bullet from his body. The man in the white car is being sought, Poreba said.

Spencer grew up on a farm near Fort St. James in northern British Columbia.

In 553 NHL games, he scored 80 goals and had 143 assists. But he was known as a scrapper more than a scorer--collecting 634 penalty minutes.