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Wings teammates remember Huber

Former defenseman died of heart attack at 52

Tuesday, 06.29.2010 / 2:43 PM ET / News
By Bill Roose  -
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Wings teammates remember Huber
DETROIT – As the 19-year-old captain of the Hamilton Fincups, Dale McCourt vividly remembers the first time he saw a tall, gangly teammate skate onto the ice during training camp in 1975.

“He was a big kid, but a little bit uncoordinated,” McCourt said, “like maybe he grew too fast, and he was having a hard time getting his feet to catch up with him.”

However, it wasn’t long before Willie Huber, the tall, gangly German-born Hamilton teammate turned into a Memorial Cup champion and a first-round draft pick of the Red Wings.

Huber, who played five seasons for the Red Wings between 1978 and 1983, died at his Hamilton, Ontario, home Monday from a heart attack. He was 52.

“He really came into his own,” said McCourt, who was later joined by Huber in Detroit. “I mean he caught up to his body and adjusted to Junior A hockey, and really, really impressed us.”

Born in Strasskirchen, Germany, Huber played a total of 10 seasons with four different clubs, including the New York Rangers, Vancouver and Philadelphia. He scored 68 goals with 140 assists and 612 penalty minutes in 372 regular-season games with the Red Wings and was the team’s lone representative at the 1983 All-Star Game.

It’s been about nine years since McCourt last saw his friend and former OHL and NHL teammate, at a gather in Hamilton to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Fincups’ 1976 Memorial Cup championship.

“Him and I were pretty good buddies,” said McCourt, who now drives a transport trunk across Canada four days a week. “We hung around a little bit in Junior. He was a nice guy. Our personalities melded together pretty good. He had a good home life; always respected his mom and dad, and I think that’s something that both of us did. I respected my parents and I think that’s something that melded us into good friends.”
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Three seasons after their Memorial title, McCourt and Huber were reunited on a Red Wings’ team coached by Bobby Kromm, who died earlier this month.

“Even in that day and age, it was kind of ironic that we both ended up on the same team,” McCourt said. “I mean, with expansion and everything, things kind of went out the window of your expectations of a six-team league growing up as a kid and watching the NHL. You just wanted a chance, so wherever you were drafted you were ready to go.”

Paul Woods, a former Red Wings forward and the team’s current radio analyst, remembers Huber as a generous individual, who enjoyed playing softball and golfing.

“Him and I got along real well,” Woods said. “We were roommates in the summer some times and took vacations together. The biggest thing Willie and I did was go to Hawaii. We stayed out there for about three weeks and had a real good time golfing.”

During the summer months, the Red Wings’ players participated in charity softball events. Huber was the team’s first baseman, Woods said.

“He was a big part of our slo-pitch softball team back then,” Woods said. “We had a real good group: Jimmy Rutherford, Willie, myself and Brad Smith. It was just a way for us to raise money for charity. … We just had a great time.”

Early in his career, Huber, who was an imposing figure on the ice – he stood 6-foot-5 and was 225-pounds – was the largest player in the NHL at the time. An offensive-minded defenseman, he averaged 13.6 goals and 41.6 points during his days in Detroit.

Former Red Wings forward Nick Libett was traded to Pittsburgh following Huber’s rookie season. But the thing Libett recalls most of the imposing defenseman was his soft-spoken demeanor.

“He was a gentle giant. He really was,” Libett said. “He didn’t have a real mean streak in him – that I saw anyway.”

Yet, Huber’s abilities were undeniable, especially when he was paired defensively with Reed Larson, which gave the Wings a couple of Howitzers that could unleash heavy shots from the blue line on the power-play.

“He was a big, friendly, quiet guy, you know,” McCourt said. “He was a pretty well-rounded defenseman. His agility probably wasn’t top-notch, but he played both ends of the ice pretty well.”

Following the 1982-83 season, the Red Wings traded Huber and forwards Mike Blaisdell and Mark Osborne to the Rangers for forward Ron Duguay, and goalies Eddie Mio and Eddie Johnstone.

Huber played five more NHL seasons, collecting 36 goals, 77 assists and 338 penalty minutes in 283 games.

He is survived by his wife, Dawn; son, Zachary; step-daughter, Brittany; parents, Sonia and Henry; three brothers, and a sister.

Memorials contributions can be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by P.X Dermody Funeral Home, 796 Upper Gage Ave. in Hamilton. Visitation is planned for this Friday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.




1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
7 x - PHI 82 41 27 14 214 218 96
8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
9 BOS 82 42 31 9 240 230 93
10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69


H. Zetterberg 82 13 37 -15 50
P. Datsyuk 66 16 33 7 49
D. Larkin 80 23 22 11 45
T. Tatar 81 21 24 4 45
G. Nyquist 82 17 26 -2 43
J. Abdelkader 82 19 23 -16 42
M. Green 74 7 28 -6 35
B. Richards 68 10 18 4 28
D. Helm 77 13 13 -2 26
N. Kronwall 64 3 23 -21 26
P. Mrazek 27 16 6 .921 2.33
J. Howard 14 14 5 .906 2.80