A hard-nosed defenceman from Port Arthur, John Schella began his four-year run in the junior ranks in 1963 with the Fort William Canadians.
There he helped the local Habs win the Thunder Bay Junior Hockey League title in 1964.
However, Schella’s Fort William side would fall four games to two in quarter-final action in the Western Canadian Memorial Cup playdowns to the Brandon Wheat Kings, with him collecting one assist in four outings.
Playing at nearly a point-per-game pace in 1964-65, having 22 in 24 TBJHL contests, his efforts helped the Canadians finish in first place in the league standings.
Despite that, it was the second place Port Arthur North Stars who went on to claim the local crown.
Moving on, Schella and the Canadians would claim the TBJHL championship in 1966 with him notching eight tallies and setting up 20 others in the process.
Sweeping the Winnipeg Rangers in four straight in to commence the 1966 Memorial Cup trail, his team would fall in a tightly-contested West semifinal, that went the distance, with the Estevan Bruins.
Heading to the Peterborough Petes (OHA) for the 1966-67 season, Schella was a physical force there, racking up 182 penalty minutes, along with 22 points in 47 games.
After stops in minor pro with the Houston Apollos (CPHL) and the Denver Spurs (WHL), Schella made his NHL debut with the Vancouver Canucks in 1970, who selected him 32nd overall in that year’s NHL Expansion Draft.
Earning the moniker ‘Shotgun,’ he spent two years with the Canucks, playing 115 games and amassing 224 penalty minutes while chipping in with a pair of goals and 18 assists.
Schella was again tabbed in another NHL Expansion Draft, this time being chosen with the New York Islanders 25th pick in 1972.
However, he opted to join the fledgling World Hockey Association instead where the rugged rearguard would etch his name in the record books their inaugural campaign.
His physical play with the Houston Aeros saw him lead the WHA in penalty minutes that first season with 239.
Schella would play six seasons in total with the Aeros, helping them win back-to-back Avco Cup WHA titles in 1974 & ’75.
In all, he suited up in 385 match-ups with Houston, notching 39 markers while dishing out 143 helpers and amassing 844 minutes in the sin bin.
Following stints with the San Diego Mariners (PCL) and Binghamton Dusters (AHL) in 1978-79, he would call it a career.
During his time with the Aeros, Schella would be part of: “Got ‘em, need ‘em, have ‘em,” conversations among hockey card collectors across North America.
Having hockey cards in O Pee Chee’s WHA hockey card set for the 1975-76 season, his rookie card (No. 21), can go for around $5.
Meanwhile, his 1976-77 season (Card No. 128) currently goes for around $2.50.
Schella also appeared in a 50-card Quaker Oats hockey card set in 1973-74, (No. 7), accompanied with cards 6-10 in its uncut panel, which sell for just over $10.
He was also Card No. 17 in the Houston Aeros 1975-76 team postcard set.
The rugged blueliner from the Lakehead remained a fan favourite throughout his career with his robust style of play.
In all, he played a combined 500 games in the NHL & WHA, collecting 41 points while doling out 161 assists and totalling a whopping 1,068 penalty minutes.
Schella passed away in August of 2018 at the age of 71, yet remains one of our city’s favourite sons.