Penguins alumni rally to help Mitch Wilson, who is fighting ALS
Troy Loney played with and against some of the toughest men to come through the NHL, famed fighters Jay Caufield and Stu Grimson among them.
But Mitch Wilson, a teammate of Loney's with the Penguins, Baltimore Skipjacks and Muskegon Lumberjacks — and someone who recently was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS — left a different impression.
“He was always a ‘salt of the earth' kind of guy,” Loney said. “He would tell you exactly the way it was. Solid citizen. Small, short guy. Rough and tumble. Tremendous teammate to have.
“The fact that he has this just doesn't fit into the scheme of things.”
Loney and a group of former Penguins got together Tuesday for the 17th annual Penguins Alumni Charity Golf Classic at Valley Brook Country Club in McMurray, and they used the forum not only to pay tribute to a friend but also to donate money and complete the ALS ice bucket challenge.
Former player and current Penguins radio color analyst Phil Bourque played with Wilson in Baltimore, Muskegon and Pittsburgh. Like Loney, he remembers Wilson as likable as well as tough.
Listed at 5-foot-8, Wilson, now 52, didn't shy away from many challenges, Bourque said. In 1981-82, Wilson amassed 436 penalty minutes as a member of the Seattle Breakers of the Western Hockey League. Nobody on the Penguins had more than 100 last season.
“He would bring guys who were 6-5 or 6-6 to their knees,” Bourque said. “He could throw with both hands. He didn't do it just to do it. He fought with a purpose, and it was usually to stick up for a teammate.
“To hear what's happening with him, especially with all the attention on ALS right now, it's hard to believe.”
Wilson played 17 games with the Penguins during the 1986-87 season, scoring two goals and racking up 83 penalty minutes.
According to hockeyfights.com, Wilson fought 10 times during his two NHL stints — he also played nine games with the New Jersey Devils in 1984-85.
Coincidentally, he fought a pair of NBC Sports broadcasters: Brian Englom while with New Jersey and former Penguins player and coach Ed Olczyk with Pittsburgh.
“He was strong as an ox, man” Loney said. “Just like a fireplug.”
Wilson, who finished his minor league career with 4,044 penalty minutes in 847 games, retired in 1995. He spent the past 20 years as a tugboat captain.
“The tugboat captain thing is perfect,” Loney said. “Makes sense.”
Wilson was diagnosed July 17 and since has devoted his time and efforts to raising money and awareness, with which the Penguins were more than happy to help, donating $10,000.
“This is a hockey community, man,” Bourque said. “We support our own.”