Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wayne Bianchin

Wayne was a man who beat all the odds and scored close to 30 goals in a season in the NHL despite the fact that he had broken his neck in a surfing accident earlier on.

While surfing off Hawaii in the summer of 1974 Wayne fell into the water and was helplessly throwed around under the water by a giant wave. He hit his head so badly that he suffered a broken neck that required a fusion.

His hockey career looked to be over. As he tried to make a comeback he suffered from severe headaches that were almost unbearable.

"I'd get a headache from the slightest bit of tension or fatigue," he recalled. He was on medication to alleviate the pain. Wayne was on the brink to quit hockey. " I was on my way to pack it up. I loved the game, but there was only so much that you could tolerate."

The headaches eventually disappeared and Wayne could concentrate fully on hockey again. The speedy winger played his junior hockey for Kamloops, Calgary, Victoria and Flin Flon. During his final junior season in 1972-73 he scored a fine 114 points (60 goals and 54 assists) in 68 games. That led the Pittsburgh Penguins to draft him in 1973 as the 23rd player overall.

Wayne had a pretty good rookie season as he scored 25 points, including 12 goals, for Pittsburgh in 1973-74. He then had his surfing accident and slowly had to play himself in shape. It wasn't until the 1976-77 season before he was 100% again. He scored 2 goals and 1 assist for Pittsburgh on opening night and went on to have his best season in the NHL. Wayne had six two goal games and scored a total of 28 goals.

He was named the winner of the Bill McCracken Unsung Hero Award and also finished high in the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for dedication and perserverance to hockey. When things were looking good again Wayne went down with back injuries that would hamper him for years. He managed to score 20 goals in 1977-78 despite missing over a month with a ruptured spinal disc.

Wayne's 1978-79 season wasn't too impressive and he was left unprotected by Pittsburgh in the 1979 expansion draft where he was picked up by the Edmonton Oilers.

Wayne himself was surprised that he was picked in the expansion draft. " missed 40 games. I didn't think anybody would take a chance on a guy who'd missed 40 games," he said.

Early on in the Oilers training camp he was struggling. He was very aware of that "I haven't got my strength and stamina yet and I may not have it for a month or so," he said back then.

The young and talented Oilers team made a deep impression on Wayne.

"For one thing, I wasn't expecting to see so much depth. We're going to have good players at every position."

Little did Wayne know that many of his Edmonton teammates would go on to build a dynasty team. Unfortunately Wayne never caught on and was scoreless in the 11 games that he played for Edmonton. He spent the rest of the 1979-80 season playing for the Oilers farm team Houston Apollos (CHL).

When Wayne got a phonecall from the Italian club HC Asiago he jumped on the opportunity to play in the country where he had his roots. Wayne scored more than two points per game (58 points in 28 games) for Asiago in 1980-81. Since his father was Italian he was eligible to play for the Italian national team right away. Dave Chambers (coach of Quebec 1990-92) coached the Italian national team at that time, invited Wayne to play for Italy in the 1981 B-Pool World Championships.Wayne scored 12 points in 7 games,including a tournament high 9 assists. He was named to the All-Star team and helped Italy advance to the A-Pool. After his Italian adventure he retired.

Wayne's own description of his playing style was summed up like this: " I like to play it physically. That's my game, I don't crunch people but I'm comfortable in the corners and I rely a lot on my speed."

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