The American Hockey League is saddened by the passing of one of its greatest players, Mike Nykoluk.
A talented playmaker, Nykoluk was one of the most productive point-getters in the history of the AHL. Fifty years after his retirement, Nykoluk still ranks third on the league’s all-time list with 686 assists, sixth with 881 points and fifth with 1,069 games played. He was a member of the second class of inductees into the AHL Hall of Fame, in 2007.
The Toronto native played on the inaugural Rochester Americans club in 1956-57 and suited up in 32 National Hockey League games for the Toronto Maple Leafs that same season. But Nykoluk would spend the entirety of the next 15 years in the AHL, mostly becoming one of the faces of the Hershey Bears franchise.
Nykoluk’s 14 seasons in Hershey were highlighted by two Calder Cup championships, one in 1959 and another in 1969. He never cracked the 20-goal mark in his career, but he recorded at least 50 assists in seven straight seasons (1963-70), leading the league twice.
In 1966-67, Nykoluk won the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player and was a Second Team AHL All-Star. A year later, he set career highs with 19 goals and 85 points and earned a First Team All-Star selection.
In Hershey, Nykoluk is the Bears’ all-time leader in games played (972), assists (636) and points (808), and his number 8 has been retired by the team.
Nykoluk went on to become an assistant coach in the National Hockey League, helping the Philadelphia Flyers to Stanley Cup championships in 1974 and 1975. He later returned to Toronto and spent three seasons as the head coach of his hometown Maple Leafs.
Nykoluk was 87.