Sunday, December 25, 2011

Jerry Melnyk

This is Jerry Melnyk, often referred to as Gerry Melnyk. He was a long time minor leaguer in the dying days of the Original Six. He played with the Detroit Red Wings for two seasons (1959-61) and Chicago Black Hawks for one season (1961-62) but spent much of his career in the minor leagues. He ended it in style though, returning to the NHL in his final season of play. That was the NHL's first year of expansion, and the veteran forward caught on with the St. Louis Blues in 1967-68.

Melnyk, described as a clever play-maker, totalled 269 NHL regular season games. He scored 39 goals, 117 assists and 116 points. He added another 6 goals and 12 points in 53 playoff contests. Interestingly, Melnyk played in six NHL post-seasons, challenging in the Stanley Cup final in five of them. Sadly, Gerry Melnyk never would win the Stanley Cup.

Prior to the 1968-69 season the Blues traded Melnyk to Philadelphia in exchange for Ab McDonald. However Melnyk would suffer a heart attack and ended up retiring before ever playing with the Flyers.

Instead he began scouting for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was the scout who was so adamant that Bobby Clarke was the best player in the 1969 draft. But Clarke was a diabetic, and that scared off all the teams. Melnyk was furious when the Flyers passed on Clarke at 6th overall, taking Bob Currier (who would never play a game in the NHL) instead. Melnyk must have seriously relieved to see Clarke still available in the second round of the draft. Melnyk had by then convinced the Flyers to take the man who would become the heart of the franchise. The rest, as they say, is history.

By the way, Melnyk was also instrumental in the Flyers going "off the board" to draft Peter Forsberg in 1991.

Jerry Melnyk passed away in June 2001, several months after being diagnosed with leukemia. He passed away in Edmonton, his life long home. He was born there, and was a junior and minor pro star with the Edmonton Flyers in the 1950s.


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