Catching Up With ... Aldo Guidolin
Six strokes robbed former Clippers enforcer of his speech, but he gets by with help from his wife of 59 years
Aldo Guidolin and his wife, Phyllis, are pictured at an event last year. (Baltimore Sun / February 28, 2013)
At 80, life is a struggle for Guidolin, whose brawling 17-year career included four seasons with the New York Rangers and six as a popular player and coach with the Baltimore Clippers of the American Hockey League. Fans send cards seeking autographs, unaware that, after six debilitating strokes, Guidolin has lost the use of his right hand.
His wife, Phyllis, 79, visits almost daily, wheeling him around, helping with meals and doting over her spouse of 59 years.
“Aldo always smiles when I come in,” she said. “I don’t know if he knows that I’m his wife, but he might understand that I’m someone who comes to see him all the time.”
Fifty-one years ago, Guidolin was a mainstay on a fledgling Clippers team that christened the Civic Center (now First Mariner Arena) on Oct. 23, 1962. Before 7,760 jubilant fans, Baltimore defeated the Providence Reds, 5-4. That night, a 30-foot slap shot by Guidolin found the net.
His spirited play livened the Clippers, excited the crowds and earned him untold trips to the penalty box. By the time he retired here in 1969, Guidolin had spent 715 minutes in the bin for Baltimore. Sometimes he even fought while sitting in the corner.
He shrugged off those penalties, telling a Sun reporter that “I just got caught more than the other guys.”
Guidolin saw more than his share of melees, which left him with a broken wrist and leg, plus several thumbs and toes. His daughter, Barbara Guidolin, remembers her father coming home from games “with thread in his face, from stitches, or with a broken finger or two.”
Though bruised and beaten, he never complained, she said.
“Fans seemed to relish [the fisticuffs],” Phyllis Guidolin said. “We’d be sitting in the stands and friends would say, ‘Oh, Phyllis, Aldo is in a fight!’
“I’d say, ‘Let him fight.’ I never stood up to watch it. What’s remarkable is that Aldo still has most of his teeth. I’ll kid him that it’s because he always kept his mouth shut while on the ice.”
Off the ice, Guidolin’s persona changed.
“In all these years, he has never said a harsh word to me,” his wife said. “And he has never complained about his illness. After the third stroke, he could still speak, so I asked him about it. He said, ‘It’s something that I’ve been given, and I must accept it.’
“Aldo has faith.”
He has lived the life he wanted, she said: “He told me that, at 10, he was asked to write a composition on what he wanted to be when he grew up. Aldo wrote, ‘One day I’m going to play in the NHL.’
“When his teacher told him that one sentence didn’t make a composition, he looked at her and said, ‘That’s all I’ve got to say.’ “
Guidolin played for New York from 1952 through 1956, then spent his last 13 years in the AHL. For 2 1/2 years, Guidolin served as the Clippers’ player-coach, twice making the playoffs as pilot but never winning the Calder Cup.
“He loved Baltimore,” Barbara Guidolin said. “I’d go to games on Saturday nights, after which we and the players all went to a crab house where they threw pots of steamed crabs on the tables and we all dived in.”
In retirement, Guidolin served as a scout for the Atlanta Flames, then as director of player personnel for the now-defunct Colorado Rockies hockey team. At 58, tired of traveling, he settled in his old hometown.