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Former Red Wings Forward Wochy Subject of NHL Productions Documentary

At 101, Wochy is oldest-living NHLer

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Ex-Red Wings Steve Wochy
Former Red Wings forward Steve Wochy, the oldest-living NHLer at 101, is the subject of a film done by NHL Productions.

Former Detroit Red Wings forward Steve Wochy is the Timex watch of the NHL. He just keeps on ticking.

Not only is he the oldest living player in NHL history, he’s the first Red Wings player to celebrate his 100th birthday.

That, the NHL has decided, is worthy of a tribute. Wochy, who turned 101 on Christmas Day, is the subject of a new film released by NHL Productions.

“What can I say?” Wochy expresses during the film. “I’m still here.”

Wochy Set Red Wings Rookie Mark

Though his NHL career was brief, it was still memorable. Wochy would finish the 1944-45 season, his only full NHL campaign, with 19 goals and 39 points. At the time, both were records for a Red Wings rookie.

Wochy counted 13 goals by Christmas that season. His slate would include four two-goal games.

“I had good center icemen,” Wochy accounted for his success as an NHL rookie. “I had Don Grosso from the Soo, who was very good.

“If they hadn’t traded Grosso (to Chicago during the 1944-45 season) I would’ve had a lot more. You have to have somebody you can play with and team up with. You can’t do it on your own, I don’t care who you are.”

Two years later, Jim McFadden (24-24-48) would shatter Wochy’s Detroit rookie standards while winning the Calder Trophy. Today, the Red Wings rookie scoring mark of 39 goals and 48 assists is held by Steve Yzerman, the team’s current GM.

Nearly Won Stanley Cup

In the spring of 1945, Wochy was part of a Red Wings team that came within a win of capturing the Stanley Cup. Detroit lost the final series to Toronto in seven games.

And just like that, his NHL dream would turn into a nightmare. With many players returning to the NHL following the conclusion of World War II, spots in the league were at a premium.

Wochy would play just five more NHL games with the Red Wings in 1946-47 during an 11-season pro career.

“I had a lot of good years and a lot of bad years,” Wochy said. “I had too many injuries. Broken cheekbone, broken hand, broken foot. That held me back.”

The good years included leading the AHL with 37 goals for the 1951-52 Cleveland Barons. That performance wound up earning him AHL First Team All-Star status.

Red Wings Icon Gordie Howe Was His Linemate

“I played with a lot of good players,” Wochy recalled. “I played with Gordie Howe, I played with Johnny Bower for four years (in the AHL with Cleveland) and I had a chance to play with Jacques Plante in Buffalo (also in the AHL).”

Not only did Wochy play on the same team as Mr. Hockey, the two were linemates with the USHL Omaha Knights during Howe’s rookie pro season. Howe was just 17 years old at the time, but Wochy could already see greatness blooming.

“He was good, yeah,” Wochy said of Howe. “He was fun to play with.”

How Wochy came to be teammates with Howe is a story in itself. Back in the day, it was frowned upon for players to marry in-season. Wochy opted to violate this unwritten rule and wed his wife Shirley, but was certain he had a caveat.

“I was playing in Indianapolis (AHL),” Wochy explained. “(Detroit coach-GM) Jack Adams, he got mad at me because I got married in January. The reason I got married was I had a broken hand and couldn’t play.

“I was on a train trip I believe to go to Pittsburgh. (Adams) took me off the train and sent me to Omaha. He said, ‘I’ll send you and your new wife on a honeymoon to Omaha.’

“That’s how I ended up playing with Gordie Howe.”

Jumbo Joe Tells Story

Wochy lives today in Sault Ste. Marie, where he would finish his pro career. His story is narrated by another famous player who would toil in the Soo, 2005-06 Hart Trophy winner Joe Thornton.

“Steve, consider this a letter to you, from myself and the entire hockey community,” Thornton said. “I couldn’t think of a better ambassador for the sport we all love.

“You’re living proof that retirement isn’t the end of our story, it’s just the start of the next chapter.”

From Wochy’s point of view, he doesn’t ponder his longevity, or his place in NHL history.

“Could be good genes, eh?” Wochy said. “My brother lived to 95 and my sister lived to be 99.

“I’m up and around, that’s the main thing. You’ve got to get up and move. I have good neighbors who help me out. They’ve all been good to me.”

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