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"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."