Doug Hicks

Cold Lake, Alberta's Doug Hicks was a hot commodity in 1974. After three years with the WCJHL Flin Flon Bombers, two of which were standout seasons, Doug was drafted in the 1st round, 6th overall by the Minnesota North Stars. He was selected ahead of the likes of Doug Risebrough, Pierre Larouche, Mario Tremblay and Bryan Trottier.

Hicks did not have a memorable career like many other fellows drafted that year, but he had a good career. He was able to step directly out of junior hockey into the NHL without looking too out of place. He would go on to a lengthy NHL career spanning 561 games.

While it was not un common in the 1970s to see a forward step out of junior and find relatively early success at the NHL level, it was almost unheard of a defenseman being able to make the big jump back then, let alone in any era. But Hicks gave the North Stars great hopes after playing solidly for the promising though still struggling team.

"Usually you figure on one or two seasons in the minors at least for the kind of defenseman Hicks is," said North Stars general manager Jackie Gordon. "And here we've got a kid, just turned 20, with a full NHL season under his belt. What an asset he's going to be."

Unfortunately for Gordon, Hicks leveled off rather than continued to increase to other levels over the rest of his career. He became a dependable depth defenseman, and a key contributor to team morale and chemistry.

Doug's off ice contributions are best documented with young Edmonton Oilers of the early 1980s. After 4 seasons with Minnesota and two with Chicago, Doug was picked up by the Oilers in the 1979 expansion draft when the Oilers merged with the league from the World Hockey Association. Hicks was brought in for his experience and leadership, and although he was gone long before the Oilers dynasty reign, he left a lasting impression on the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and, perhaps especially, a young defenseman named Kevin Lowe.

"Although Hicks has long been forgotten by most fans," wrote Kevin in his great autobiography Champions, "those of use who had the good fortune to play alongside him remember him well. Doug was a season pro by the time he reached Edmonton and knew the meaning of teammanship."

One of the reasons behind the Oilers dynasty was how close the team was, and how they grew from young boys to world champions all together - be it on the ice or off.

"One of the first bits of business he initiated was 'The Original Team Beer,' " explained Lowe. "Dougie decided that every couple of weeks it was mandatory for everyone to go to a certain place, have a steak sandwich, and a couple of beers. It was like a fraternity bash where we could unwind, hash out any problems and, most of all, cultivate the team spirit that would very soon be evident on the Edmonton Oilers."

It may seem like a simple thing, but it was these intangibles that Hicks was valuable for .He had an infectious attitude that the youngsters looked up to. He helped to guide the young Oilers in their infancy.

Hicks was dealt away at the trading deadline in his third season in Edmonton. He went to Washington where he only played 20 games over two years. he spent most of the 1982-83 season in the minor leagues. He quit playing after that, and turned to Alberta where he took up coaching with the AJHL' St. Albert Saints for a season.

Hicks loved to play hockey though, and he jumped at an opportunity to return to the game in 1984-85. He headed over to Europe, where he play until 1988 in Germany and Austria.

Doug, who is the brother of fellow NHL alumni Glenn Hicks, is still playing the game these days - often appearing in old timer charity games such as the Legends of Hockey tour.


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