Former NHL defenseman Richard Wilson, better known in hockey circles as Rik Wilson, passed away on January 22nd, 2016. He was just 53 years old.
Wilson played 251 NHL games, primarily with St. Louis but also briefly with Calgary and Chicago. He scored 25 goals and 90 points in his career. He added four assists in 22 Stanley Cup playoff contests.
Wilson was born in Long Beach, California, making him one of the earliest California born players in National Hockey League history. Wilson was born in California because his father, Dick "Wink" Wilson, had played several seasons in the California Hockey League in the early 1960s. When his father's pro career ended the family returned to Ontario, settling in the Kingston area.
Hockey ran deep in the Wilson family. Roy Wilson, also nicknamed Wink, was a senior star in northern Ontario during World War II. Meanwhile Rik's brother Dave, also born in California, went on to play for dad's Alma Mater Michigan Tech University before enjoying a professional career in Great Britain.
Rik opted to pass on the school route and play junior hockey with the Kingston Canadiens. He would emerge as one of the top prospects of 1980, being drafted 12th overall by the Blues. He was drafted ahead of future standouts like Brent Sutter, Barry Pederson and Moe Mantha.
Wilson made his debut with the Blues in 1981-82, scoring three goals and a career-high 18 assists in 48 games. He would spend three and a half more seasons with St. Louis, scoring a personal-best eight goals in 1984-85, before being sent to Calgary in February 1986 in a six-player deal that saw Joey Mullen go to the Flames.
Wilson appeared in only two games with Calgary before being assigned to the American Hockey League. A little more than a month later the Flames traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks for Tom McMurchy.
Wilson would have to wait until 1987-88 before seeing any action with the Blackhawks, scoring a four goals and five assists in what proved to be the final 14 games of his career.
Wilson headed to Europe the next season, playing in Austria and Germany for a couple of seasons.
Wilson returned to St. Louis after hanging up his skates, only to find skates of another kind. He would end up playing four seasons of roller hockey with the St. Louis Vipers of Roller Hockey International, reuniting with his brother Dave and former Blue Perry Turnbull.
Wilson operated his own personal training business while also remaining very active with youth hockey programs in St. Louis.