Johnny Wilson's memories of the glory days of the Detroit Red Wings start with the Olympia dressing-room entrance.
"There was a sign on the locker-room door," Wilson recalled. "It said, "We'll supply everything but guts."
That was okay with him, because Wilson already had enough guts to go around. The NHL iron man of his era, Wilson played a record 580 consecutive games, shattering Murray Murdoch's league mark of 509 on March 21, 1959 against the New York Rangers.
"I think it's sort of ingrained in you as a kid," Wilson said of his durability. "I never missed a day of school.
"In hockey, I was fortunate because I never had a major injury like a broken bone, or anything where I had to sit out. As a young player, I remember Ted Lindsay telling me to play through hurts, because there's another guy sitting out there, waiting to take your job.
"I guess I must have listened."
A scorer as a junior, Wilson switched to a defensive role in the pros. "When I came to Detroit, Jack Adams told me they had enough scorers," Wilson said. "He wanted guys who could go up and down the ice and backcheck, so that's what I did."
Wilson was shuttled twice in the many moves of Detroit GM Adams during the mid 1950s — leaving shortly after the 1955 Cup win, then returning in the 1957 Lindsay deal. He's of the opinion that Adams tinkered too much and sidetracked a good thing.
"Jack certainly knew his hockey, but I think he made a big mistake in making such wholesale changes," Wilson said. "It was still a young team. Most of us were 27 or 28 and we had a few more years of good hockey left."
Wilson was moved again in 1959, dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs and he finished his playing days with the Rangers in 1961-62.
Returning to Detroit as coach of the Wings from 1971-73, Wilson still makes his home in the area and maintains a regular presence with the Red Wings Alumni team.
Kincardine, Ontario, June 14, 1929
Signed to pro contract, September 9, 1949
BEST SEASON WITH RED WINGS:
TOTALS WITH RED WINGS:
GP-379, G-79, A-100, PTS-179
Played in NHL All-Star Game, 1954-55; Set NHL record by playing 580 consecutive games