March 31, 2016

John Hughes

John Hughes was an intriguing defense prospect back in 1974.

The stocky Hughes was born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island but grew up in Toronto. He was a junior star with the Markham Waxers and then the Toronto Marlies. In 1973 Hughes helped Mark and Marty Howe, Bruce Boudreau and Mike Palmateer lead the Marlies to the Memorial Cup championship.

The Vancouver Canucks drafted Hughes in the third round, 41st overall, in the 1974 NHL draft. It could have been a nice steal for the Canucks, as The Hockey News had ranked Hughes as the 14th best prospect for that particular draft. He was a hard hitting defenseman nicknamed "Captain Crunch" and it wasn't for his love of cereal. He provided a real presence in his own zone.

Hughes may have slipped because word had leaked that he was likely to opt for the World Hockey Association rather than the NHL. Two days after the NHL draft, the Houston Aeros drafted Hughes 9th overall.

Hughes would jump immediately to the WHA, embarking on a five year vagabond career in "the rebel league." Hughes would play in Houston, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Edmonton. Such was life in the WHA. His best hockey was probably his time with the Cincinnati Stingers when he teamed with skilled defenseman Ron Plumb.

When WHA folded in 1979 the NHL absorbed the four remaining teams - Edmonton, Winnipeg, Quebec and Hartford - and dispersed all the players.

Hughes finally joined the Canucks, who still owned his NHL rights. He enjoyed a season of some stability with the Canucks, remaining in Vancouver the whole year even though he only got to play in 52 games.

The next year Hughes with no fewer than four teams and three leagues. His travels included brief stops with the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers, but he mostly disappeared to the minor leagues.

John Hughes retired from the minor leagues in 1982. His NHL totals featured 70 games played with two goals, 16 points and 211 penalty minutes. In the WHA he played 372 games with 18 goals, 148 points and 778 penalty minutes.

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