Saturday, June 19, 2010

EX-REGINA PATS - MANAGER - OWNER DEL WILSON INDUCTED INTO SASKATCHEWAN SPORTS HALL of FAME


Regina Pats WebSite

By Ken Zaharia, Courier-Islander

Friday, June 18, 2010


Hockey has been good to Campbell River's Del Wilson. Forty eight years as the Western Canadian scout for the fabled Montreal Canadiens, 18 Stanley Cups won in those 48 seasons, of which, he has three Stanley Cup rings to show for it (Habs' scouts only started receiving the mementoes starting in 1986).

But Del Wilson, 83, has also been good for hockey. Just ask the people of Saskatchewan.

Wilson is currently in Regina where he will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame as a builder for hockey. Wilson will received the honour Saturday night at the 2010 Induction Dinner in the Saskatchewan capital city.

"When I received the phone call (informing him of the induction) I thought the guy was kidding me," chuckled Wilson a long time Riverite. "But I have to say I feel honoured."

There's little doubt Wilson had a huge impact in the Prairie province when it comes to hockey - at all levels - from minor right up to major junior.

Wilson's minor hockey coaching feats are Gretzky-like in their sheer numbers. As a minor hockey coach in Regina, Wilson was at the helm for 35 Provincial championship teams. And get this, for two straight years he coached four teams (bantam, midget, juvenile and junior B) and all four won Saskatchewan championships in each year!

"I guess you could say I was pretty busy back then," joked Wilson.

Wilson moved up to the major junior ranks when he and five other partners bought the Regina Pats in 1970. At the time the Pats were in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and had Wilson as their General Manager since 1955. But when Wilson and his group took over they successfully applied to join the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Wilson was the President and General Manager of the Pats until he and his group sold the team in 1980. But in those 10 years Wilson managed to find some 'diamonds in the rough' or as you could say in the 'grass' in the case of NHL Hall of Famer Clark Gillies.

"I heard about this kid playing defence in Yellow Grass (just south of Regina) with the Moose Jaw midget team, it was really snowy night but I figured 'what the hell'," remembered Wilson. "When I saw him (Gillies) in warm up he was like a man amongst boys. He was this big, hulking kid, who could skate, playing defence. I figured right away he'd make a great power forward."

Wilson signed Gillies with the Pats where Clark was quickly nicknamed 'Jethro' in testament to his size.

Wilson also scouted the likes for the Pats, and future NHLers, forward Dennis Sobchuck, defenceman Greg Joly, netminder 'Steady' Eddie Staniowski, who along with Gillies were the backbone to the Regina Pats' Memorial Cup win in 1973-74. They topped the Quebec Ramparts, 7-4, in the final.

"That was one of, if not the most, memorable experiences," added Wilson. "We actually had 12 Regina boys on the team."

In winning the WHL title that year the Pats beat the Calgary Centennials coached by Scotty Munro in the final.

"Beating Scotty Munro was another highlight for me," said Wilson. For it was way back in 1966-67 that Munro, Wilson, Bill Hunter and Jim Piggott came up with the idea of a major junior league in Western Canada.

As a co-founder of the WHL and a former Governor, Wilson was recognized by the league with the yearly awarding of the Del Wilson Trophy to the WHL's top goaltender.

Tomorrow night in Regina, Wilson will once again be recognized for his extraordinary contributions to hockey. For all the thousands of youth, teenagers, and adults he's influenced over the years.

No one deserves it more.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service