December 15, 2009

Frank Hughes

Frank Hughes was one of those guys who never could find a spot in the NHL but became a star in the World Hockey Association. With the Houston Aeros he played on one of the most successful lines in WHA history - the "Go-Go Line."

Hughes played his junior hockey for the Edmonton Oil Kings and was drafted by Toronto in 1969 (43rd overall). Frank then played two seasons in the WHL for Phoenix Roadrunners. He attended a couple of training camps with Toronto but was always cut.

He was eventually claimed by California Golden Seals in the Intra-League draft on June 8,1971. Frank's only NHL action was a five game cup of coffee with California in 1971-72.

He knew that his chances to play in the NHL were very limited so he jumped at the opportunity to play in the WHA. It was a decision he would not regret.

Frank played for Houston Aeros where one of his teammates was Mr. Hockey himself, Gordie Howe. He scored 22 goals in his first season and then exploded for 42 goals and 84 points in 1973-74. A big reason for that success was that he developed a special kind of chemistry with his linemates Larry Lund and Andre Hinse. They were soon known as the "Go-Go Line."

Frank put up even better numbers the following season, finding the net 48 times. 15 of the goals came on the power play, a club record at that time.

His coach in Houston, Bill Dineen, gave his view on the line - "Hinse digs the puck out of the corners. Lund makes the plays and Hughes is the trigger man."

Frank was happy in Houston, too.

"I knew neither Toronto or California would give me a shot so I welcomed the WHA," Frank said. "Playing in Houston is super, the management has been great to me and I am very happy. Some people down rated the old WHL, but it was just a short step behind the NHL. And most of the WHA teams could play in the NHL and do alright."

Frank endorsed the WHA back then and thought more players should jump over from the NHL.

"We have never had to worry about paydays or anything like that and we are treated first class," he said of the Aeros. Not all WHA teams were quite as lucky.

Frank was only making $25,000 when he first went to the WHA. It increased considerably after his fine seasons. He played in Houston until December 1976 when he got traded to WHA rival Phoenix Roadrunners.

He lasted only half a season in Phoenix until the franchise folded. Houston wanted Frank back and eagerly signed him as a free agent.

Frank only played 11 more games for Houston before once again moving back to Phoenix. But this time he went on to play for the PHL (Pacific Hockey League) Phoenix Roadrunners. There he tore up the lower league. He had a league leading 33 goals, 41 assists and 74 points in 40 games. Frank was named to PHL's first All-Star Team and won the MVP award.

The following season (1978-79) he finished his career playing for Tuscon Rustlers (PHL). He scored 84 points in 58 games and was named to PHL's second All-Star Team.

Frank, who married motorcycle stunt woman Debbie Lawler, was one of a number of players who benefited from the existence of the WHA. It gave him a second chance and he took it, scoring 353 points in 391 career WHA games.

Hughes became a realtor back in his hometown of Fernie, BC. He was also an excellent golfer, earning his certification as a PGA golf pro.


Unknown said...

I enjoyed reading about Frank Hughes. I grew up in Phx, Az and in the early 70's the go-go line was the best entertainment around.I can remember at the start of every game the Lund, Hinse and Hughes would jump on the ice first and race around the rink for a quick lap and the crowd would go crazy! They really tore it up.

Smoke said...

I would double-check the source of that picture. I am almost certain that that picture is actually Sandy Hucul #4. Frankie Hughes wore #9.

Prince said...

I knew Frank when I was playing in Houston as a kid. He was one of several players who lived in my apartment complex. A very nice guy. He gave me several sticks. He used the biggest curve I have ever seen- about 2.5 inches! It was impossible to keep the ball down, playing street hockey.