A Providential threesome

THE WILSON BROTHERS—RON, RANDY AND BRAD—ARE PUTTING THE PUCK IN THE NET FOR THE SCHOOL WHERE ERNIE D AND BASKETBALL ONCE REIGNED
December 06, 1976

Mention Providence College and most of us think of people named Wilkens and Egan and Walker and DiGregorio dribbling basketballs upcourt at breakneck speed. Now, from the same folks who gave us those basketball thrills, come the Wilson brothers—Ron, Brad and Randy—and they move faster than Ernie D ever did. Of course, they wear ice skates, not low-cuts. Recently the Wilsons opened Providence's season by combining for three goals and five assists in the Friars' 4-3 win over Merrimack. In one game last year they scored eight goals—Randy had six, Brad two, and Ron assisted on five of the eight. The ultimate, of course, is a goal by Wilson from Wilson and Wilson—which has happened six times so far in their Providence careers—twice in the same period against Dartmouth, which produced this unusual box score:

Third period—Providence, Ron Wilson (B. Wilson, R. Wilson) 9:22; Providence, Randy Wilson (B. Wilson, R. Wilson) 18:19.

Ron, a 5'10", 175-pound senior, is a Bobby Orr-type defenseman who kills penalties, runs the power plays and skates about 40 minutes a game. As a sophomore, he led the nation in assists with 61 in 27 games, and finished second in scoring with 87 points. He was the leading scorer on last year's Olympic team, too, before it went to Innsbruck; he quit the club in December and returned to Providence. When the Olympians met the Friars in Providence, Ron scored a goal and an assist in the Friars' 6-3 triumph. He also had four-goal games against Colgate and Vermont, and despite missing PC's first three games because of his Olympic commitments, he finished the season with 66 points—tied for third in the East.

Brother Brad, a 5'7", 165-pound junior center, looks as though he could be knocked off the puck by the school librarian—until he removes his glasses and pulls on a uniform. Then he is a pocket-sized rocket—the Henri Richard of college hockey. His teammates say that ounce for ounce Brad is the toughest player on the club. He is fearless in pursuit of loose pucks, a master of the face-off circle (he won 75% of his draws last season) and a slick opportunist around the net. He has scored 123 points in his 60 games.

"Brad doesn't have as much ability as his two brothers," says one pro scout. "He gets pounded on a lot because of his size, too, and he doesn't shoot enough. But when he gets the puck on his stick—bang! It's in the net." In a 9-6 victory over crosstown rival Brown last season, Brad took only five shots. Result: five goals.

Randy, a 5'9", 175-pound sophomore leftwinger, has a personality and a playing style that go with being the youngest brother. Ron, 21, is talkative and polite, as a team co-captain should be, and he has great finesse on the ice. Brad, 20, is quiet, shy and a bit of a scrapper, having grown up in big brother's shadow. That leaves Randy, 19, a now-generation type who doesn't give a hang about tradition. Among other things, he is not crazy about wearing the mandatory ties on the road. And on the ice his game is power, cocky power.

"I think my brothers are the greatest, and I love playing with them," Randy says, "but I just can't help thinking I'll be the best in the family some day."

Quite a boast, considering the family. Uncle John Wilson played in 580 straight games for the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Black Hawks in the 1950s and now coaches the NHL's Colorado Rockies. Father Larry played three seasons as a forward in the NHL, and now coaches the minor league Baltimore Clippers.

Randy definitely has pro potential. Playing on a line with Brad and Right Wing Denis Martin, the youngest Wilson has a hard, quick, accurate shot that produced 30 goals last season, the highest total by an Eastern freshman. When goaltenders do manage to stop Randy's cannons, brother Brad is there to pop in the rebound.

Randy burst onto the college scene by scoring those six goals—the double hat trick—in his sixth varsity game.

"I'll tell you what it's like to score like that," Randy says. "This strange girl called me up in the middle of the night. She wouldn't tell me her name, but she wanted to know why I don't go out more, why I never do much besides play hockey during the season. I don't know where she got that idea; probably because the coach runs a strict bed check. I tried to explain to her that there are some nights when you feel like each person in the stands is watching your every move. And there are some nights when you know that every shot you take is going to go in the net."

Such scoring barrages have made the Wilsons marked men wherever they play. But opponents who pick on one must tangle with all three. Beau Geste on ice, you might say.

Ron, Brad and Randy were all born in Canada. They participated in the minor stages of developmental hockey in Ontario, but in 1968 moved from Fort Erie, Ontario—practically a suburb of Buffalo—to Dayton when their father took a job as coach of that city's team in the International League.

"Dad was usually too busy to lecture us about hockey," Ron recalls. " 'Listen to your coach,' he always told us. I think he was afraid he would create indecision in our minds if he said too much. Of course, he would talk hockey with us for hours, but only if we kept asking the questions. And he was no Little League parent."

"Maybe not," says Randy, "but you could tell he had been through the game just by looking at his face. He's so banged up we call him Larry the Lip!"

While Larry the Lip may have tried to maintain a laissez-faire attitude toward his sons' hockey careers, it is obvious that his approach helped hone their natural instincts. In 1970 the Wilson clan moved to Providence when dad signed to coach the Providence Reds of the American Hockey League. After two years of poor competition in Dayton, the Wilson kids finally got a chance to show their stuff.

For example, East Providence High's hockey team had an 0-21 record the year before the Wilsons came to town. During the three years when they had one, two or three Wilsons in their lineup, the Townies had an 18-4-1 record—and won the New England championship in 1975. Last year—without a Wilson on the roster—East Providence reverted to form and had a 4-17 record.

Providence College has prospered with the Wilsons, too, having put together a 49-37-4 record since No. 1 son Ron arrived on campus in 1973.

The Wilsons thrive on the wide-open style of the college game, which is almost European in nature compared to the NHL. There is less fighting to slow things down, and no red line to interrupt long passes. All this produces a game that Providence Coach Lou Lamoriello feels is very similar to basketball.

"Like a lot of college teams, we release our forwards early and send them up the ice when the puck's about to change hands," he says. "It's just like Ernie D taking off when he was sure Marvin Barnes would get the rebound."

Ron Wilson is a combination Barnes and Ernie D, and as a result Providence games feature high scores (the Friars averaged nearly six goals a game last season), breakaways galore and a lot of open ice. Ron likes to lurk at the Friars' offensive end longer than any ordinary defenseman would dream of, just waiting to intercept the opposition's passout. Then—slap!—a Providence goal. Ron needs only 78 points this season to become the highest scorer in Eastern history.

Despite his college success, however, he must add at least 20 pounds to his skinny frame or the pro scouts will continue to describe him only as "a good little player." And while they concede that Ron is a different breed of defenseman, they don't appreciate the fact that he played an entire college season (1973-74) without getting a penalty. Or that he still has all his teeth. So Ron might switch to center; he tried the position last season against Boston College and set up three goals in his first four shifts.

Ron and his brothers have started quickly again this season. After Brad and Randy helped win the home opener over Merrimack, Providence played on Merrimack's ice, where Ron scored his first goal of the season on a power play, with an assist from Brad. Randy followed with two goals—one with Brad's help—and Brad set up the fourth Friar score. Indeed, it was not until the ninth Providence goal of the new season that a P.A. announcer was obliged to omit the name "Wilson" from his summary. At that point, with the Friars leading 5-2, the Merrimack fans unveiled an old bed sheet that read: THE WILSON BROTHERS SLEEP TOGETHER. The Wilsons laughed last, though. Ron set up the game-winning goal in a 6-5 victory.

Forget that bed sheet. One thing's for certain: THE WILSON BROTHERS SCORE TOGETHER.

PHOTO

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)