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Former Red Wing Johnny Wilson passes away

Updated 5x at 6:18 PM: Very sad news for the hockey world from Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson:

My uncle, Johnny Wilson, passed away this morning at 82 yrs.He was a warrior thru & thru, right to the end.Our family will miss him dearly.
Uncle John played for Wings, Hawks,Leafs& Rangers. 688 gms. 4 Stanley Cups. Coached 7 seasons, LA, Det, Colorado, Pitt. Ironman-560 gms.

Update: The Canadian Press is confirming, and while they’re not sure of the cause of death, I can tell you that it was very quietly stated that Wilson was very, very ill over the past year. He was in dire straits for a long time, and it wasn’t a question of “if” as much as “when” he’d succumb to his illnesses.

Update #2: From the Windsor Star’s Bob Duff:

Former #redwings, #leafs and #spitfires F johnny Wilson, uncle of #leafs coach Ron Wilson, died today at 82 from lung disease.

Update #3: Here’s the Red Wings’ official press release regarding Wilson’s passing:


… Former Player/Coach won four Stanley Cups with Detroit in the 1950s …

Detroit, MI… The Detroit Red Wings mourn the loss of former player and coach Johnny Wilson who passed away this morning at the age of 82 following an extended battle with lung disease. Wilson skated in 379 games over six seasons for the Red Wings, and was a member of four Stanley Cup championship teams as a player for Detroit (1950, ’52, ’54 and ’55).  Johnny registered 79 goals, 100 assists and 179 points in 379 regular-season games for Detroit . In 50 post-season games with the Wings, Wilson tallied 11 goals and nine assists for 20 points.

A native of Kincardine, Ontario, Wilson served as the Red Wings Head Coach for 145 games in 1971-73 and 1972-73 (67-56-22).  He also served behind the bench with Los Angeles , Pittsburgh and Colorado of the NHL and Cleveland , Michigan and Baltimore of the WHA.

A two-time participant in the NHL All-Star Game, Wilson also skated with the Maple Leafs, Blackhawks and Rangers during his 13-year playing career.  All totaled, Wilson played in 688 regular-season NHL games, scoring 161 goals and 171 assists for 332 points to go along with 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points in 66 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Wilson was honored by the NHL in 1960 for a then-record ironman streak of 580 consecutive regular-season games.

Johnny Wilson Left Wing—Born Jun 14 1929 —Kincardine, ONT

Height 5.10—Weight 165—Shoots L

                            —- Regular Season—- ——Playoffs——

Season   Team                 Lge   GP   G   A Pts PIM GP   G   A Pts PIM


1947-48 Windsor Hettche Spitfires   IHL   25   21   13   34   19 —————

1947-48 Windsor Spitfires       OHA   34   23   28   51   15

1948-49 Windsor Hettche Spitfires   IHL   4   5   4   9   0 13 16   7 23 16

1949-50 Detroit Red Wings       NHL   1   0   0   0   0   8   0   1   1   0

1949-50 Omaha Knights           USHL   70   41   39   80   46   7   2   5   7   4

1950-51 Indianapolis Capitals     AHL   70   34   21   55   48   3   1   0   1   4

1950-51 Detroit Red Wings       NHL   — — — — —  1   0   0   0   0

1951-52 Detroit Red Wings       NHL   28   4   5   9   18   8   4   1   5   5

1951-52 Indianapolis Capitals     AHL   42   25   14   39   16 —————

1952-53 Detroit Red Wings       NHL   70   23   19   42   22   6   2   5   7   0

1953-54 Detroit Red Wings       NHL   70   17   17   34   22 12   3   0   3   0

1954-55 Detroit Red Wings       NHL   70   12   15   27   14 11   0   1   1   0

1955-56 Chicago Blackhawks       NHL   70   24   9   33   12 —————

1956-57 Chicago Blackhawks       NHL   70   18   30   48   24 —————

1957-58 Detroit Red Wings       NHL   70   12   27   39   14   4   2   1   3   0

1958-59 Detroit Red Wings       NHL   70   11   17   28   18 —————

1959-60 Toronto Maple Leafs       NHL   70   15   16   31   8 10   1   2   3   2

1960-61 Rochester Americans       AHL   2   2   2   4   0 —————

1960-61 Toronto Maple Leafs       NHL   3   0   1   1   0 —————

1960-61 New York Rangers         NHL   56   14   12   26   24 —————

1961-62 New York Rangers         NHL   40   11   3   14   14   6   2   2   4   4


      NHL Totals                 688 161 171 332 190 66 14 13 27 11

Update #4: From the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger:

During an interview with the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons just before the 2011-12 NHL regular season kicked off, Johnny Wilson acknowledged his health issues.

“When I’m sitting down, I feel like a million bucks,” Johnny Wilson told Simmons over the phone. “But when I get up, I’ve got this oxygen thing I’ve got to carry around with me. I’ve had a little trouble with my lungs after an operation. I’ve got to have this damn thing with me all the time. I’m hanging in there as best I can for an old guy. But sometimes you need to slow down.”

Johnny Wilson also admitted at the time that he gave his nephew Ron some helpful tips.

“He’s (Ron) got a tough job in Toronto,” Johnny Wilson told Simmons. “I told (Ron), he’s got to get those players fired up. He knows the game. He knows what has to be done. You can stand in the dressing room sometimes and give these kids all kinds of advice but the problem is, once they hit the ice, it’s all turned over to the players.

“I was a left winger. I don’t know how I’d react to all this coaching today. I’d go out there and react to the situations as they transpire. I’d do it instinctively. Today, you’ve got somebody telling you, you shouldn’t do this, you shouldn’t do that. I think I’d go out there and be too afraid of making a mistake.”

Update #5: DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose spoke to several Wings alums about Wilson’s passing:

Nick Libett will never forget Nov. 2, 1971 – the day after he first met the Red Wings’ new coach, Johnny Wilson, who as a player helped the franchise to four Stanley Cup championships during the 1950s. That Tuesday practice at Olympia Stadium might have been the most difficult of Libett’s NHL career, but it also left a very lasting impression on him.

“The first game we lost in Toronto, 6-1, and he said, ‘Gentlemen, you’re not in condition,’ ” said Libett, recalling Wilson’s first game after taking over for Doug Barkley. “The next day we came back to Detroit and never had a single puck on the ice. It was almost fun – it was a chore – but it was fun and that was Johnny’s style.”

Wilson, who had been battling lung disease and colon cancer for several years, died Tuesday in suburban Detroit. He was 82.
Under Wilson’s tutelage, Mickey Redmond became the Wings’ first 50-goal scorer, netting 52 goals in the 1973-74 season, and remembers his coach as a fair-minded man.

“If there was discipline to be rendered, John would give you the out saying, ‘Listen, if I can rescind this, let me see how you play tonight,’ ” Redmond recalled. “So he would use things like that as carrots for you to play better and help the team. That’s where he would leave you wiggle room. He never closed the door. Johnny always left room for you to dig out of the hole that you might have gotten into. And that’s where the fairness came in, all for the better of you and the hockey team.”

“He was the same in Pittsburgh,” Libett said. “We had a lot better of a team, and that was the main thing. Johnny was the same with the same coaching mentality and temperament and delivery. He had a great delivery and I think that’s the one thing that I really can say he had. Some guys open their mouths and you know they’re no good. Johnny had a great delivery whether things were going well or not so well. When he got angry, his angry delivery still had some humor in it.”

Redmond added, “John was a very, very light-hearted guy and easy going and always full of humor. For all intense and purposes, one could say that he looked at life from the humorous side. … He kept everything loose and light. That was John to the end.”

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Red Winger's avatar

I got to know Johnny Wilson’s grandson, Brian Mahoney-Wilson, when he played in net up here at Lake Superior State. What a fantastic person, and the stories he could tell about conversations with “Uncle Ron” and “Grandpa John” were the stuff of legend.

Prayers and thoughts to the entire Wilson family.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie, MI on 12/27/11 at 03:10 PM ET

bezukov's avatar

My thoughts and condolences to the Wilson family.

Posted by bezukov from the kids are alright. on 12/27/11 at 03:40 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Condolences to the Wilson family.

Posted by SYF from A tall cool pint of Guinness on 12/27/11 at 03:53 PM ET

DocF's avatar

My condolences to the Wilson family.  I think Ron said it very well when he called Johnny a real warrior.  He was one of the hardest guys to play against in the whole league when he played for the Red Wings.


Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 12/27/11 at 04:29 PM ET

Little Redhead's avatar

My condolences to the family, both the WIlson and the WIngs families.  Sounds like he had a good long life and left quite a legacy.

Posted by Little Redhead from the Engineer's Chair on 12/27/11 at 04:48 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.