Sunday

Bill Hicke

Bill Hicke enjoyed a splendid junior career while playing for the Regina Pats (SJHL) between 1954-58. In 146 regular season games he scored 251 points, including 142 goals. He led the entire league in goals and points during his last season. He led Regina to three consecutive Memorial Cup appearances and had his No. 17 sweater retired by the franchise. He would remain a legend of Regina hockey for his entire lifetime.

The jump to the professional game proved to be no big challenge as Hicke immediately won the scoring title in the AHL while playing for the Rochester Americans. He named as AHL First All-Star Team, AHL Rookie of the Year and AHL MVP.

The fleet-footed forward's fine play won him a spot on the strong 1959-60 Montreal Canadiens team that had just won the 4 straight Stanley Cups. The team would win their record 5th straight in Hicke's rookie season. He took much of the season to earn a regular spot, but by playoffs time he was a regular and earned the right to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Rocket Richard's retirement marked the end of that Canadiens dynasty and a time of change in Montreal. Hicke took advantage, though he was stuck in a third line role playing behind fellow right wingers Boom Geoffrion and Claude Provost. Despite the fact that Bill often didn't see much ice time he managed to put up some very good numbers. His best season in a Canadiens uniform came during the 1961-62 season when he scored 20 goals and 51 points. He also had 18 and 17 goal seasons for the Canadiens.

"To come from where I did to a place like Montreal was like a dream," Bill said. " The Canadiens were such a great team. They had so many stars. The only thing I had against the Canadiens was that I felt I didn't play enough. That's when I learned that I should have kept my mouth shut. But I didn't. I went to general manager Sam Pollock and told him to play me or trade me. He took care of my wish by trading me to New York. To me that was like going from heaven to hell. The team was fine. It was just the city I didn't like."

Hicke was traded to the New York Rangers on December 21, 1964 and finished the 1964-65 season in the Big Apple. His career almost came to a tragic end the following season.

" I was attending my first training camp with the New York Rangers (1965) when it happened," Bill recalled. " I went out with a group of guys and played a round of golf. It was raining at the time. When I finished I must have gotten a chill. Later I was sick and couldn't seem to get any better. I found out later that I wasn't being treated for the right thing. Things got so bad that I went into a coma for almost two weeks. When I came out of it I had allergies that I had never had before in my life. One of them was bronchial asthma, an allergic respiratory disease marked by difficult breathing, chest constriction and severe coughing."

In the summer of 1967 Hicke was claimed by the Oakland Seals in the expansion draft. He had generally gotten his condition under control but almost lost his life to the ailment in the 1967-68 season.

"Bert Olmstead was our coach at the time and he was a pretty tough one, to say the least," Bill said. " Despite all the stories about how bad Olmstead treated players, there was the day that Bert almost killed me, although he didn't realize it at the time. He had been putting us through a pretty tough skate and I was feeling a little tired. I was sitting on the bench when Bert came over and told me to get back on the ice. I told him that I really didn't feel like it and that I wasn't feeling too well. But I don't think he believed me and told me to get out there. So I did. It wasn't too long after I just collapsed on the ice and was taken to a hospital. I had had another bronchial asthma attack and Bert didn't know it. After a couple of weeks I came out of it and was back in action."

While playing for Oakland Bill enjoyed his most successful seasons in the NHL point wise. In 1968-69 he scored 25 goals and 61 points in 67 games, all career highs. That season earned him a trip to the annual NHL All-Star game. It was his third, he had previously appeared in two NHL All-Star games (1959 and 1960). Bill played in California for 4 seasons, averaging close to 20 goals.

Bill's last NHL season came in 1971-72 when he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He then finished his playing career in 1972-73 when he suited up for the Alberta Oilers of the World Hockey Association.

After his playing career was over Bill returned to Regina where he purchased a local sporting goods store called Kyle Sporting Goods, which was formerly started and owned by former NHL brothers Bill and Gus Kyle.

Bill credited his time in Oakland and the WHA as a stepping stone for his business career.

" When I was with the Seals I learned how not to run a business by watching the team's different owners," he said. " When Charlie Finley bought the team, I don't think he knew too much about the sport. He was too much into gimmicks and trying to sell the game that way. I think the team could have done better had they had better ownership. I think I learned the most when I went to the WHA. I was elected president of the players' association. In just that one year I learned more about the business end of hockey."

Bill did extremely well in the sporting good business. He had built the business up to the point where the business was pushing $2 million in sales each year. He also purchased the building that house the business for $45,000, and years later sold it for $475,000. As Bill said himself, he "was making money hand over fist!"

Bill also co-owned and briefly managed his alma mater Regina Pats of the WHL. He sold his shares in the Pats in 1995.

Bill was enjoying complete retirement later in life. He was interested in personal endeavors such as a golf and restoring antique cars, holding as many as 11 at one time. He even had a 1926 Model T and a 1962 Rolls Royce and a 1955 Thunderbird. He lived in Regina during the summer, and heads to Scottsdale, Arizona in the winter time.

Unfortunately the happy go lucky Hicke would be forced to face cancer, a battle he lost in 2005.

2 comments:

Anonymous,  7:20 PM  

Just found a hockey card autographed by Bill Hicke with jersey of Seals with inscription in the back of: Bill Hicke No.38 of 48 photos

Natasha,  5:38 AM  

i just found the same card?!

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