Re­flect­ing on Wensink’s pro hockey ca­reer

The Glengarry News - - Sports In Glens - News The New York Times.

BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL

Staff Thirty-five years ago this month, a match made in heaven, so to speak, ma­te­ri­al­ized when Maxville’s John Wensink – a player with any­thing but an an­gelic rep­u­ta­tion on the ice – be­came a New Jer­sey Devil.

Wensink was a seven- year Na­tional Hockey League vet­eran and mem­ber of the Colorado Rock­ies when the fi­nan­cial­lytrou­bled fran­chise re­lo­cated from Den­ver to East Rutherford, N.J. fol­low­ing the 1981-82 sea­son and adopted its new nick­name.

And in mid-Septem­ber 1982, he was one of 80-plus play­ers who took to the ice at the Devils’ prac­tice fa­cil­ity in To­towa, N.J. to open the re­cently re-chris­tened club’s pre- sea­son train­ing camp.

In what turned out to be his fi­nal sea­son in the NHL, the 29year-old winger played in 42 games in 1982-83 (a to­tal sand­wiched around a mid-De­cem­ber seven-game con­di­tion­ing stint with the club’s Wi­chita Wind Cen­tral Hockey League farm club) amass­ing two goals, seven as­sists, and 135 penalty min­utes.

In the ver­nac­u­lar of the day, John Wensink was pri­mar­ily an en­forcer, or po­lice­man, a phys­i­cal player who wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves when the go­ing got rough.

And while he did man­age to rack up back-to-back sea­sons of 16 and 18 goals with the Bos­ton Bru­ins, un­der leg­endary head coach Don Cherry, in the late ’70s, of­fence was not his bread and but­ter.

Still, his skill set and rep­u­ta­tion as a hard worker earned him re­spect through­out the league, even from mem­bers of its gov­ern­ing body.

In Jan­uary 1984 – nine months after the con­clu­sion of his NHL ca­reer – Wensink re­ceived a let­ter from Devils owner John McMullen invit­ing John and his wife, Rhonda, to be his guests at Devils games on the weekend of Fe­bru­ary 18 and 19.

Be­fore the sec­ond match – a home af­fair for the Devils against the four-time de­fend­ing Stan­ley Cup cham­pion New York Is­lan­ders – the Wensinks had lunch with Mr. McMullen and then sat in his pri­vate box at the Bren­dan Byrne Arena for the game.

“I was just try­ing to tell John that we ap­pre­ci­ated his ef­forts for us last sea­son,” Mr. McMullen stated in the Feb. 22, 1984 edi­tion of

“He had a qual­ity more im­por­tant than tal­ent; he gave his all.”

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