Saturday, August 6, 2011

REGINA PAT ALUMNI

DENNIS SOBCHUK


By Permission: Taken from Joe Pelletier - WebSite - Greatest Hockey Legends


Dennis Sobchuk is still a hockey legend in Regina, where he starred with the junior Pats in the early 1970s. He played 200 games from 1971 to 1974, registering 191 goals and 225 assists. He was named the most valuable player of the 1974 Memorial Cup. He later had his number retired and is undoubtedly one of the greatest Pats of all time.

Lorne Davis, the long time Edmonton Oilers scout, remembers his junior exploits well.

"He played with a lot of energy. He could stickhandle and he could really shoot. He played with Clark Gillies (a Hockey Hall of Famer) at the time, people thought that Dennis would be the next great player. That didn't really happen but he had a great junior career."

His junior career was so impressive that he became the first player to sign with a professional hockey team before leaving major-junior hockey. He signed a 10-year, $1-million contract with the WHA's Cincinnati Stingers in 1973. He played the 1973-74 season with the Pats and was loaned to the Phoenix Roadrunners for the 1974-75 season because the Stingers didn't have an arena in which to play.

It was a very controversial move at the time, because of the money and because it was likely Sobchuk would have been the top player selected in the 1975 NHL draft. The WHA stole him before the NHL even had a chance, opening up a controversial practice the WHA would use with many of Canada's top junior players.

Sobchuk played for Phoenix, Cincinnati and Edmonton in 348 WHA games from 1974 through to 1979. He scored 145 goals and recorded 186 assists. His best offensive season was with the Stingers in 1976-77 when he had 44 goals and 51. Not bad, but his scoring and his play deteriorated from that season onward. He later tried resurrect his career in the NHL, but to no avail.

"Discipline-wise it may have helped me to go to the NHL," said Sobchuk, who played 35 games in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings and Quebec Nordiques. "They were more structured in their foundation. In the WHA, we were just happy to have 18 guys on a team. One game we were supposed to play the Minnesota Fighting Saints and the Houston Areos came out because Minnesota folded that day. It was hard for a 20-year-old to be as serious in hockey as I would have been in the NHL."

Injuries really hampered Sobchuk's career.

"I had three shoulder separations and the third time they removed about six inches of my clavicle,'' Sobchuk said. "They told me at the time that when I turned 50 that I would have arthritis. It's hard to believe that I ever got to 50. It doesn't bother me now.

"It happened during the middle of my career when I was rolling," Sobchuk said. "The injuries happened one, two, three and it took the burning desire out. It seemed like every year I was battling to get back in shape. The guys were bigger. It wasn't as easy to get back in the stirrups. It wasn't fun again. It was work."

Sobchuk retired in 1983. He briefly returned to Regina to try his hand at coaching, but soon relocated to Bellingham, Washington, just south of the British Columbian border. He was involved in the construction of the local arena there, and soon turned to building and selling homes.