Campbell River resident Delbert “Del” Wilson passed away yesterday in Campbell River and received condolences from the junior hockey community throughout Western Canada.
Among his many accomplishments, Wilson was co-founder of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and league officials expressed their sadness at his passing.
Born in Craik, SK, Wilson was a driving force behind the creation of the Western Hockey League in 1966 along with Jim Piggott, Bill Hunter and Scotty Munro. Wilson was also instrumental in bringing the WHL, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League together to form what is known today as the Canadian Hockey League.
“As one of our co-founders, all of us at the WHL will always be indebted to Del for the vision and leadership he displayed in establishing the Western Hockey League,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “Del’s hockey accomplishments with the Regina Pats and Montreal Canadiens are legendary and he will be sorely missed by all of his friends in the WHL.”
Wilson was a goaltender for the Regina Abbotts in 1945 and for the Regina Pats from 1946 to 1947, but began coaching minor hockey in Regina shortly after his playing career. As a minor hockey coach, Wilson captured 35 provincial championships including two consecutive seasons in which he coached four teams (bantam, midget, juvenile and junior B) to titles simultaneously.
Near the same time, Wilson began his tenure as a Western Canadian scout for the Montreal Canadiens and remained with the organization for 47 years until he retired in 1995. During that time, the Canadiens won 18 Stanley Cups and Wilson earned a trio of Stanley Cup rings for his services. In 1956, Wilson assumed the role of General Manager for the Regina Pats and held the post until 1968.
The Pats were absent from the League for two seasons, but in 1970 Wilson led a group of investors to purchase the Regina Pats and the team quickly jumped back from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League to the WHL. Wilson served as the General Manager and President of the Pats for six years during which he was also the WHL’s Chairman of the Board for a period of time. Under Wilson’s leadership, the Pats went on to win both WHL and Memorial Cup titles in 1974.
Wilson continued to own the Pats until 1980 and also worked for the WHL as referee-in-chief from 1978 to 1980.
The Regina Pats organization also express their regrets about the “legendary Regina Pats builder.”
Wilson was a scout in Western Canada for the Montreal Canadiens when he was appointed General Manager of the Regina Pats in 1955. He spent 15 seasons as the Pats General Manager until joining the Canadiens as a full time scout for the 1969-70 season. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League in the mid to late 60’s, the organization that has evolved into the current Western Hockey League.
In 1970-71, Wilson headed a group which purchased the Regina Pats. In 1973-74, as President and General Manager of the highly respected organization, Wilson’s Pats won the Memorial Cup by defeating the Quebec Remparts 7 – 4 in the championship game in Calgary, the last time the Memorial Cup was held in Alberta.
Wilson sold his interest in the Regina Pats in 1980 ending a 25 year association with junior hockey in Regina but continued to serve as a scout in the Canadiens organization. He retired from the Canadiens in 1985 having served 47 years with Montreal in a scouting capacity.
Wilson has left an indelible mark on the Regina Pats and the WHL that is still felt toda, Pats President Todd LUmbard said on the team’s website. The Regina Pats will honour Del with a moment of silence during their game this Saturday against the Victoria Royals
The WHL Goaltender of the Year is recognized annually with the Del Wilson Trophy in honour of Del’s extensive contributions to the WHL at both the Club and League levels. In 2005, Wilson was among the first ever recipients of the WHL Governors Award for outstanding contributions to the growth and development of the Western Hockey League. In 2010, Wilson was enshrined into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame. Recently, Wilson was a part of the WHL’s 50th Season-opening festivities in Moose Jaw where he was honoured with the very first edition of the League’s commemorative book.
Wilson was also active with Sequoia Springs golf course in Campbell River.
Wilson was 88 years of age.