John Stanley Mikol
Born: June 11, 1938 (Kitchener, Ontario)
Died: March 15, 2014 (The Villages, Sumter County, Florida)
Jim Mikol was a handsome, lantern-jawed hockey player whose 11-season professional career included two brief stints in the NHL. He was a high-scoring minor-league defenceman and forward who was a bit too old to benefit from the NHL’s 1967 expansion.
Born in Kitchener, Ont., Mikol (rhymes with nickel) learned to skate at age four on frozen ponds and sloughs in his hometown. He played junior hockey with the Waterloo Siskins before joining the Peterborough Petes for the 1957-58 season. He spent the following season with the senior North Bay Trappers.
Known for his quick release when shooting, Mikol turned professional with the Johnstown Jets, scoring 11 goals and adding 14 assists in his Eastern Hockey League debut in 1959-60. He also had 101 penalty minutes.
Mikol moved up to the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League, where he became one of the team’s stop scorers. He scored 32 goals with 48 assists in 1961-62. Such a performance earned him a tryout with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who kept him on the roster after the 1962 training camp.
“We’ll keep him,” Leafs coach and general manager Punch Imlach said. “He showed us enough to rate a good look. You have to remember he just switched from defence to forward a couple of years ago.”
The 6-foot, 175-pound left-winger was seen as a possible replacement for Bert Olmstead, who had been picked up in the offseason by the New York Rangers.
He made his NHL debut on Oct. 14, 1962, against the Rangers in New York, where he played on a line with Billy Harris and Eddie Litzenberger. After Harris suffered a pulled muscle, Frank Mahovlich was added to the line.
Mikol got only spot duty. “Jim has seen little action with leafs and is nor furthering his hockey career sitting on the end of the bench,” Red Burnett wrote in the Toronto Star. “He needs work — and lots of it.” After just four games, during which he got an assist, he was loaned to Cleveland with an option for immediate recall. In the end, the call never came from the Leafs.
The forward enjoyed another solid season in 1963-64 with the Barons under coach Fred Glover, scoring 24 goals with 44 assists. He had three goals and four assists as the Barons swept nine consecutive playoff games to eliminate the Rochester Americans (2-0), Hershey Bears (3-0) and Quebec Aces (4-0) to win the Calder Cup championship.
On June 10, 1964, the NHL’s Boston Bruins grabbed his rights in the inter-league draft from the Barons. The Rangers then claimed him from the Bruins the same day.
Mikol got a measure of revenge against his old team be recording two assists in a 3-3 tie when the Leafs played at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 18, 1964. The Rangers sent him down to the farm club in St. Paul, Minn., on Christmas Eve. When Don Marshall got injured, Mikol got a call up to the parent club, only to be snowed in while flying through Cleveland. (Trevor Fahey of the New York Rovers became the emergency replacement in what would be the only NHL game of his career.) Mikol wound up splitting the season between New York (30 games, one goal) and St. Paul (33 games, 14 goals).
In May, 1965, Mikol and three other players (Sandy McGregor, Marcel Paille and Aldo Guidolin) were traded by the Rangers to the Providence Reds for goalie Ed Giacomin. The future Hall of fame netminder said in a 1987 interview with the New York Times that the Reds owner wanted Mikol because he thought his good looks would be a box-office attraction.
Mikol played three seasons with the Reds before winding up his playing career with two seasons with the Barons. He scored 167 goals in nine AHL seasons. His NHL totals were one goal and four assists in 34 games played.
The retired player became an owner and coach of the Erie Golden Blades for the 1982-83 season. He later became a part-owner and coach of the Lakeland Ice Warriors of the Soithern Hockey League in 1992-93.
Away from hockey, he worked as a club golf pro in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and North Carolina, before settling in Florida.