Douglas Allen (Diesel) Mohns
Born: December 13, 1933 (Capreol, Ontario)
Died: February 7, 2014 (Reading, Massachusetts)
Member: Sudbury (Ont.) Sports Hall of Fame (2009)
Doug Mohns spent 22 seasons in the NHL with five different teams. He was a rushing defenceman for much of his career, but also played left wing on the famed Scooter Line for the Chicago Black Hawks.
A strong skater and an early adapter of the slap shot, Mohns skated in seven NHL All-Star Games (two as a forward, five as a defenceman). Despite his long career, he never got his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.
Mohns was born in Capreol, Ont., now part of Sudbury, a divisional point on the Canadian National Railway with branches to the west and west. He was the youngest of six children (four boys, two girls) born to Ella and Fred Mohns. He learned to skate by age 2 on a backyard rink known throughout the neighbourhood for never-ending games of shinny.
Boston Bruins scout Harold (Baldy) Cotton, a former NHLer, first evaluated Mohns at age 14s. The boy signed to play junior with Barrie (Ont.) Flyers, where he was paid $25 per week but had to form back $15 for room and board.
The Flyers were coached by the disciplinarian Hap Emms. The roster included many future NHLers including Real Chevrefils, Leo Labine, Jerry Toppazzini and Don McKenney, who was Mohns’ best friend on the team. The Flyers went 18-5 in eliminating five teams to win the Memorial Cup junior championship. Mohns scored one goal in a four-game sweep of the Winnipeg Monarchs in the final.
The Flyers repeated as Memorial Cup champions two seasons later (with Don Cherry now on the roster), by which time Mohns emerged as one of the top prospects in hockey with had consecutive 76-point junior seasons.
An injury to Boston forward Jack McIntyre opened a roster spot for Mohns, who opened the 1953-54 season with the parent club. He made the leap without a single game spent in the minors. (Mohns never played a game in the minors in his career, a rare feat.) He scored 13 goals in his rookie year and 14 as a sophomore. He also showed an unexpected physicality as a player, winning fights though in time his style led to several nagging injuries. Along the way he picked up the nickname Diesel, a nod to his roots in a railroad town and as acknowledgement of the manner in which his legs churned like pistons as he raced up ice.
In 1956-57, the Bruins moved him back to defence, where he was paired with Fern Flaman. Mohns called on his superior skating skills to rush the puck, adding an element to the Bruins attack that would see fruition a decade later when Bobby Orr joined the team. In 1959-60, Mohns became only the second defenceman in league history to score 20 goals.
In 1964, the Bruins sent Mohns to the Chicago Black Hawks in exchange for Ab McDonald and tough guy Reggie Fleming. The Hawks placed Mohns on a line with Kenny Wharram at right wing and Stan Mikita at centre. In 1966-67, the trio all appeared in the top 10 of scorers, along with teammate Bobby Hull. Mohns scored 25 goals and added 35 assists in just 61 games in his most productive season. Chicago finished in first place, only to be eliminated in the playoffs by the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs in the final season of what was known as Original Six hockey.
The Black Hawks eventually moved Mohns back to the blue line, though he had enjoyed seasons of 22, 25, 24 and 22 goals.
Late in the 1970-71 season, Mohns was traded to the Minnesota North Stars with Terry Caffery for Danny O’Shea. Mohns played 17 games for the North Stars and added two more full seasons with Minnesota before being claimed by the Atlanta Flames in the 1973 intra-league draft.
He only skated in 28 games for the Flames in the 1973-74 season and his career looked spent until the expansion Washington Capitals purchased him on June 20, 1974. Capitals general manager Milt Schmidt had a soft spot for players who, like him, had spent time in the Boston Bruins organization. He picked up the veteran a week after an expansion draft in which he had selected players who were young and, for the most part, untested.
“I knew that Mohns was a real fantastic skater and that he was a real good team man,” Schmidt said, as recounted in the Washington Capitals official history. “I knew that he was equally as good off the ice as he was on. We needed some leadership on that hockey club because we had a lot of kids that hadn’t played much in the National Hockey League. I just thought that by getting somebody like Doug, he would instill some of his thoughts and his way of thinking and that it would be a great asset to us. Plus it gave us some real good experience, which we needed badly.”
The 40-year-old Mohns served as the team’s first captain and he would need to call on every bit of leadership he could muster, as Schmidt had put together the worst team in NHL history. The Capitals staggered to an 8-67-5 record, managing a single victory in 40 road games.
The captain retired at the end of the season. In 1,390 regular season NHL games, Mohns scored 248 goals, adding 462 assists. He scored 14 goals with 36 assists in 94 playoff games.
Mohns endured lots of kidding from teammates about his hair loss. He is considered perhaps the first NHLer to wear a toupee. On a more sombre note, Mohns was responsible for a career-ending injury. In a game at the Olympia in Detroit on Jan. 30, 1966, Mohns’ stick clipped Doug Barkley in the right eye, causing a retinal tear that left him blinded in the eye, ending the burly defenceman’s NHL career after just 253 games.
After hanging up his skates, Mohns worked for 19 years as a hospital administrator. He later worked at the Shaker Hills Gold Club at Harvard, Mass. In 1978, he co-founded the Dianne DeVanna Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of child abuse.