During the first half of the 1980s, before Steve Yzerman became the Red Wings’ star attraction, the team’s most dominating offensive force was left winger John Ogrodnick. His vicious slap shot gave goalies nightmares and fans at the Joe Louis Arena something to cheer about during some disappointing seasons.
Remarkably, despite having two 50 plus goal seasons in juniors, Ogrodnick was not picked up in the 1979 NHL entry draft until the fourth round by Detroit as the 66th pick overall.
Numerous NHL scouts would soon be red faced.
In his first full campaign with the Wings in 1980-81, “Johnny O” scored 35 goals that began a stretch of six consecutive seasons as the team’s leading goal scorer. For the 1984-85 season Ogrodnick set a then club record of 55 goals and wracked up 105 points as only the third Red Wing (besides Gordie Howe and Marcel Dionne at the time) to have more than 100 points in a season. His performance during these years earned him five All Star game appearances. As a First Team All Star left winger in 1985, he joined a line with Edmonton’s Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri.
Before Detroit earned the nickname “Hockeytown,” Ogrodnick went through the growing pains with the Wings organization when cars were given away at games to help put people in the seats.
“For a few years we saw a lot of empty seats and with the revolving door of coaches, it was frustrating, but we had some respectable years,” he says. “Steve Yzerman went through it too and he discovered what we all know, it takes all 20 guys to win a championship.”
Midway through the 1986-87 season, Ogrodnick was traded to Quebec with Basil McRae and Doug Shedden for Brent Ashton, Gilbert Delorme, and Mark Kumpel. Nine months later he was to the Rangers where he would star for five seasons.
Despite scoring 91 goals in his last three seasons with New York, he was released and then signed with the Red Wings for the 1992-93 campaign where he scored six goals in nineteen games before retiring at age 33.
Ogrodnick still lives in the Detroit area and is an investment consultant with J.P.Turner and Company in Farmington Hills. He is Vice-President of the Red Wings Alumni Association and still plays in their charity games. For information on the Red Wing Alumni team schedule, go to www.redwingalumni.com