Mel Wakabayashi (1943 –  )

Sport: Hockey
Position: Forward
Year of Induction: 2005

About

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
  • 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 – 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 – 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 – 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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