Perhaps, the North American Hockey League, as shown in the movie ‘Slap Shot’, is best represented by Gilles Bilodeau. Gilles ‘Bad News’ Bilodeau had little to do with hockey and a lot to do with fighting and other violence on the ice.
Gilles played one year of junior hockey in 1974-75 with the Sorel Eperviers (Black Hawks) of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The year before, Sorel provided the hockey world with offense like it had never been seen before.
The team in 1973-74, led by Pierre Larouche and his 251 points, had seven players total more than 100 points, two over 200. Three Eperviers scored more than 90 goals during the 72 game regular season. Sorel finished first overall in the 10 team QMJHL but fell in the playoff finals to the Quebec Remparts.
As is often the case in junior hockey, the offensive power moved on to the pro ranks and the 1974-75 Eperviers were left with a group better fit for the boxing ring. Bilodeau sat 377 minutes in the penalty box over 62 games. Although a high total, it was nothing compared to teammate Roger Seguin who accumulated 494 minutes while somehow playing the full 72 game schedule without suspension. The two finished 1-2 in the QMJHL for the PIM category that season.
There were, of course, no National Hockey League takers for Gilobeau at the NHL Amateur Draft. He did, however, fit a certain mold that the World Hockey Association was looking for and the Toronto Toros selected him in the ninth round of the 1975 WHA Amateur Draft, 121st overall. Over his pro hockey career, Gilles played 143 WHA regular season games between 1975-76 and 1978-79 with the Toros, Birmingham Bulls and Quebec Nordiques.
It was in his first year of pro hockey, 1975-76, that Bilodeau made his presence known in the North American Hockey League. Gilles played 58 games with the Beauce Jaros while also playing 14 games for the WHA Toros. In those 58 games, he scored eight goals and assisted on 17 more for 25 points. But, it was his penalty total that gave him ‘fame’.
The Jaros were first overall and had the first player in pro hockey history to total more than 200 points in a season on the roster. Joe Hardy led the league with 208 points. Bilodeau was in the sin bin for 451 minutes, a 7.8 PIM per game pace. He finished first in the NAHL in that category, 140 minutes ahead of the next contender, Dave Hanson of the Johnstown Chiefs. In the playoffs, he added 46 more PIM, playing just five games while the Jaros cruised to the Lockhart Cup finals before losing to the Philadelphia Firebirds.
In his second pro season, Gilles sat 242 PIM in just 28 games for the Charlotte Checkers of the SHL. He played pro from 1975-76 to 1980-81 and had a two game stint with the Birmingham Bulls of the ACHL in 1983-84. Over 374 pro regular season games, Bilodeau sat 1,763 minutes in the box, a 4.7 PIM per game pace.
Bilodeau actually saw action in the NHL. After playing with the Quebec Nordiques in the final year of the World Hockey Association, 1978-79, he moved with the franchise to the NHL for 1979-80. Gilles played a total of nine games in the NHL with the Nordiques. Unfortunately, Gilles Bilodeau passed away in 2008.