Former Maple Leafs coach, Hershey Bears star Mike Nykoluk dead at 87


Published January 31, 2022 at 1:18 pm

TORONTO — Mike Nykoluk, who captained the Toronto Marlboros to a Memorial Cup title and went on to coach the NHL’s Maple Leafs for three and a half seasons, has died. He was 87.

The Maple Leafs confirmed Nykoluk’s death on Twitter. A cause of death was not given.

Nykoluk led a Marlboros roster that included Bobby Baun, Al MacNeil and Bob Pulford to a 4-1 win over the Regina Pats in the best-of-seven 1955 Memorial Cup final.

He played 32 games for the Maple Leafs in 1956-57, scoring three goals and adding an assist.

He was assigned to the Rochester Americans during that season. While he wouldn’t play another NHL game, he had an outstanding AHL career, primarily with the Hershey Bears.

Nykoluk remains Hershey’s all-time leader in games played (972), assists (636), and points (808) and helped the team to Calder Cup titles in 1959 and 1969. He won the Les Cunningham Award as AHL MVP in ,1967 and his number 8 is retired by the club.

Hershey said in a statement that Nykoluk, affectionately known as “The Big Bear,” would be honoured before the Bears’ game Wednesday against Hartford.

Nykoluk joined the Philadelphia Flyers as an assistant coach to Fred Shero and helped them to Stanley Cup titles in 1974 and 1975.

He took over from the fired Joe Crozier behind the Maple Leafs’ bench halfway through the 1980-81 season. The Leafs went 15-15-10 under Nykoluk the remainder of the season before being swept by the eventual Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders in the opening round of the playoffs.

Toronto missed the playoffs the following season, then returned in 1982-83 before losing 3-1 to the Minnesota North Stars in the Norris Division semifinals.

Nykoluk was fired after the 1983-84 season after Toronto went 26-45-9 and missed the playoffs. The Maple Leafs went 89-144-47 in his three-and-a-half seasons behind the bench.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 31, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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