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Athlete Modern

Wakabayashi, Mel


SPORT | Hockey

POSITION | Forward


 (1943 – 2023 )

Mel was born in Slocan City, British Columbia in 1943 but the family was moved eastward shortly after that, as were thousands of Japanese-Canadian families. After staying in Northern Ontario for 3 years, the Wakabayashis arrived in Chatham in 1950. Mel soon became involved in sports, particularly minor hockey and minor baseball. He went on to excel at both sports at the local level with the Chatham Junior Maroons and Ontario Baseball Association championship teams. Mel continued his excellent play at college and at the international level while playing hockey for 12 years in Japan. He went on to coach the Japanese National Hockey Team at several international events including one Winter Olympics.

Career Highlights

1963 to 1964

January 1963 – entered University of Michigan on a hockey scholarship but could not play because of freshman ineligibility

1963 – 1964 – scored 21 goals and 17 assists, including 2 goals in championship game, as Michigan beat University of Denver for NCAA Championship – in game against Loyola University from Montreal, received his only minor penalty (on a questionable call) in his university career

1964 to 1965 

1964 – 1965 – led team in overall scoring with 17 goals and 21 assists and was Western Collegiate Hockey Association scoring champion with 13 goals and 17 assists in league play – won Hal Downes Award as team Most Valuable Player – and was First Team All-American

1965 to 1967

1965 – 1966 – was team captain – led team in overall points with 19 goals and 33 assists and led WCHA in league scoring – won team MVP Award – named WCHA Most Valuable Player – ranks in top 25 in career scoring and in career assists

January 1967 – signed contract with Detroit Red Wings – played a few games with Memphis Wings in the Central Hockey League and then went to Johnstown in Eastern Hockey League where he scored 8 goals and had 18 assists

1967 to 1979

1967 – 1979 – played in Japan – 5 years with Seibu Railway Team and 7 years with Kokudo

Additional Highlights

While at Michigan, lettered in baseball for the Wolverines as a second baseman – attended spring training with Detroit Tigers

Was head coach of Japanese National Hockey Team at 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid and at 3 World “B” Hockey Championships

Was head coach of Kokuda team from 1984 to 1994

1967 – inducted into Dekers Booster Club Hall of Fame at University of Michigan

2001 – selected as one of Top 50 players in 50 year history of Western Collegiate Hockey Association

January 2006 – was inducted into University of Michigan Athletic Department Hall of Honour

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