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Backchecking: High-scoring Ogrodnick now into high finance

John Ogrodnick scored 402 goals and 827 points in 928 career NHL games. (THN Archives)

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John Ogrodnick scored 402 goals and 827 points in 928 career NHL games. (THN Archives)

By Kevin Glew

He’s still "Johnny O" in Hockeytown.

But outside of Motown these days, John Ogrodnick must be wondering if the “O” stands for overlooked.

The 402-goal scorer is rarely mentioned as a potential Hall of Famer, even though his numbers (827 points in 928 games) compare favorably with Steve Shutt (817 points in 930 games) and Clark Gillies (697 points in 958 games), two left wingers already honored in the hockey shrine.

Now an investment consultant in Farmington Hills, Mich., Ogrodnick also tallied the third-most points by a left winger in the ’80s, trailing only Michel Goulet and Brian Propp.

Unfortunately, Ogrodnick is accustomed to being overlooked. In the 1979 NHL draft, the high-scoring forward, coming off seasons of 59 and 48 goals with the New Westminster Bruins, wasn’t selected until the fourth round.

“As a 19-year-old, I wasn’t getting as much ice time,” Ogrodnick recalled. “Ernie McLean was our coach and he called me into his office and he said, ‘John, don’t worry, you’ll go in the first or second round.

“I remember sitting by the radio and listening to the draft, and the first round goes by and I’m not picked. The second round goes by, no. The third round goes by, no. And then in the fourth round, I was finally picked up by Detroit.”

It was a tough pill to swallow for Ogrodnick, who was born in Ottawa, but grew up in Cold Lake, Alta. The young winger had been successful virtually everywhere he had played: as a member of the New Westminster Bruins, he had won back-to-back Memorial Cups in 1977 and 1978.

But after the draft disappointment waned, Ogrodnick showed up at the Wings’ training camp determined to prove his naysayers wrong. He made a strong impression, but was dispatched to Adirondack, the Wings’ American League club, for three months, before being called up when George Lyle sustained a knee injury.

Toiling primarily on a line with Dale McCourt and Mike Foligno, Ogrodnick recorded eight goals and 32 points in 41 games and would remain in the NHL for the rest of the season. The following campaign he would play in his first of five all-star games.

His finest NHL season was the 1984-85 campaign. Skating alongside Steve Yzerman and Ron Duguay, Ogrodnick scored 55 goals and was named an All-Star Game starter.

“To begin the game, I was on the left side with Wayne Gretzky,” Ogrodnick said. “That was pretty exciting for me. It only lasted one shift. Then Sather put Messier up there with him.”

After notching 38 goals the following year, Ogrodnick was dealt to the Quebec Nordiques in January, 1987.

“When I do speaking engagements, I kind of joke around,” Ogrodnick said. “I call it the double-lie from (Red Wings coach) Jacques Demers, because there were rumors in the paper about me getting traded to Quebec. And Jacques came up to me during a morning skate and said, ‘John, what’s all this stuff I’ve been reading in the paper about you getting traded to Quebec?’ And I said, ‘Well, Jacques I don’t know.’ And he says, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll never trade you to Quebec.’ So I call it the double-lie. He ended up trading me, then I found out about a year or two ago that Jacques can’t read.”

Ogrodnick would enjoy his longest playoff run with the Nordiques and experience the “Battle of Quebec” first-hand in the second round of the playoffs.

“It was very, very exciting,” he said. “People ask me what the highlight of my career was and I say it wasn’t scoring 50 goals. For me, it was that ‘Battle of Quebec.’ It was exhilarating.”

Quebec would drop the series to Montreal, but not without a valiant effort from Ogrodnick, who tallied nine goals and 13 points in 13 post-season games.

His stay in La Belle Province, however, was short-lived. He was dealt to the New York Rangers in September of 1987, where, after a couple of sub-par seasons, Ogrodnick rediscovered his scoring touch in 1989-90, potting 43 goals and earning team MVP honors.

“I was playing with Kelly Kisio and Brian Mullen,” he said. “We gelled well together and we cycled a lot – a lot of give-and-go. We just moved the puck quickly. I like that style of play and we just connected very, very well.”

After two more seasons in The Big Apple, Ogrodnick re-upped with the Detroit Red Wings for one final season in 1992-93. By that time, he had already started preparing himself for life after hockey.

“I was always intrigued by the market…I actually used to trade commodities at my house,” he said.

As well as being an investment consultant, Ogrodnick is also the vice-president of the Red Wings Alumni Association and participates in several charity hockey games and golf tournaments every year.

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