Johnny Wilson, the NHL’s former “ironman” as a player who went on to coach four NHL teams, including the Penguins, died Tuesday following an extended battle with lung disease.
Wilson, 82, coached the Penguins for three full seasons from 1977-80, compiling an overall record of 91-105-44 and leading the team to the playoffs twice. The highlight of his tenure in Pittsburgh was a preliminary round playoff series victory over the Buffalo Sabres in 1979, when George Ferguson scored the decisive goal in overtime at The Aud in Buffalo.
“The Pittsburgh Penguins extend their deepest sympathy to the family of Johnny Wilson,” said Ray Shero, the Penguins’ Executive Vice President and General Manager. “Johnny coached the Penguins for three seasons from 1977-80 and is remembered here for his work ethic, dedication, and absolute passion for the game of hockey. He will be missed.”
Wilson played 688 games as a left wing for the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers from 1949-62, scoring 161 goals and 332 points with 190 penalty minutes. He became the NHL ironman of his era by playing a then-record 580 consecutive games in the 1950s, mostly with Detroit. He played every game for eight straight seasons, won four Stanley Cups with the Wings and played in two NHL All-Star Games.
The native of Kincardine, Ontario went on to coach the Red Wings, the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Rockies in addition to the Penguins.
Wilson was the uncle of current Toronto Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson, who announced the death Tuesday morning on his twitter account. “My uncle, Johnny Wilson, passed away this morning at 82 yrs,” Ron Wilson wrote. “He was a warrior thru and thru, right to the end. Our family will miss him dearly.
“Uncle John played for the Wings, Hawks, Leafs and Rangers, 688 games, 4 Stanley Cups Coached 7 seasons, LA, Det, Colorado, Pitt. Ironman.”