Reflecting on Wensink’s pro hockey career
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.”