More than good, Goodwin was great


by Peter Ruicci (Independent Media)

One is arguably the biggest name in the history of the sport. The other is a relative unknown.

But the absence of those two players from the Soo Greyhounds 1978-1979 training camp paved the way for John Goodwin, a sixth-round draft choice who went on to become one of the most-productive players in franchise history.

After notching an eye-popping 70 goals and 112 assists as a 16-year-old, Ontario Hockey Association rookie in 1977-78, the legendary Wayne Gretzky turned pro, signing with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association.

At roughly the same time, centre Greg Britz, taken by the Greyhounds in the second round of the 1978 draft, elected not to report. Instead, Britz chose to play collegiate hockey at the esteemed Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., beginning in 1979.

With an opening at centre, Goodwin, though not considered a great skater, wound up scoring 43 times, while assisting on 86 others for 129 points. He wound up being named the league’s ’78-’79 rookie of the year.

But that was just the start for the Scarborough, Ont., native and brother-in-law of retired TSN icon Bob McKenzie, who also covered the Hounds as a writer for The Sault Star during that era.

In his third-and-final season here, Goodwin won the league scoring championship, posting a 56-110-166 stat line. He skated on a prolific line which included left-winger Tony Butorac (50-70-120), a Sault native, and right-winger Steve Gatzos (78-50-128).

Overall, according to, Goodwin is the third-highest scorer in Greyhounds’ franchise history. He averaged nearly two points-per-game, finishing with 133 goals and 256 assists for 389 points in just 201 games.

Only Wayne Groulx, with 477 points, and Sault native Mike Oliverio, with 390, were more productive.

However, had Gretzky and Britz played “it would have been completely different for me as far as opportunity goes,” said Goodwin, now 60 and NHL pro scout for the expansion Seattle Kraken. “If I had made the Hounds, it would have been in a very-limited role.”

Gretzky, who went on to become the highest-scoring player in NHL history, “would have been on the power play and would have gotten big minutes,” Goodwin said.

While noting how he was also a skill player “although not at Gretzky’s level, the minutes weren’t going to be there.”

And minutes would have been even harder to come by had Britz reported.

“Funny how things work out,” Goodwin mused.

During his rookie season, Goodwin played with high-scoring Sault native Brian Gualazzi on his right side and Wayne Groleau on his left.

Gualazzi, who had 75 goals and 60 assists, “was great,” Goodwin said. “He could snap the puck. I put it on his front skate and it was in the net before you could blink.”

Of his final season, Goodwin remembers skating between Butorac and Gatzos for the last three-quarters of the season and how “Boots scored his 50th goal in the last game of the regular season in Sudbury. That gave each one of us at least 50.”

While he enjoyed great individual success, Goodwin lamented how the Hounds struggled during his first two seasons. He played as a rookie under Sault native Paul Theriault, a coach he said he loved playing for.

However, the ’78-’79 club, which played roughly the first three months of the season at the Norris Center in the Michigan Sault, finished 26-42-0 (wins, losses, ties). The change in venue occurred due to the fact the roof at old Memorial Gardens required extensive repairs.

That performance cost Theriault his job. Terry Crisp took over and led the team to a 22-45-1 mark one season later.

Playing for Crisp “was an adjustment,” Goodwin recalled. “He had come from the NHL and was more of a character than Paul. At the end of the day, we had success with him.”

That happened in Goodwin’s final season as the Soo finished 47-19-2 in the ’80-’81 campaign.  That was tops overall in the newly-named Ontario Hockey League. However, the Hounds lost the eight-point league final 9-3 to the Kitchener Rangers.

“Those were great years, they were excellent,” Goodwin said. “But I certainly would have liked to have had more success as a team.”

Goodwin said he has fond memories of Sault fans and attending the old Sir James Dunn high school, while noting how the teammates he had in junior hockey resulted in “me having probably more fun with them than anywhere. We were all pretty innocent.”

After skating with the Hounds, Goodwin played seven seasons in the minor leagues and wound up serving as both an assistant coach and head coach (for three years with the Oshawa Generals in the late 1990s) in the OHL.

He began a friendship with Sault native Ron Francis during his final season in the Sault, which was the rookie campaign for Francis, now general manager of the Kraken.

“Ron’s a great guy, no different now than he was then,” Goodwin said.

In his role with Seattle, Goodwin is responsible for scouting Detroit, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Buffalo, Columbus and Pittsburgh, along with the American Hockey League affiliates for each of those NHL clubs.

It’s a job he says he loves.

Goodwin met Joanne Davey during his time in the Sault and the two have been married for 38 years. They have two sons, 35-year-old Mathew and 31-year-old Thomas. Their daughter, Kathryn, is 28.


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