At the rather advanced age of 28 Wakely had just one NHL game under his belt, that coming with the Montreal Canadiens. The 1969-70 season provided the breakthrough Wakely needed. He appeared in 30 games for the St. Louis Blues, registering a 2.11 GAA and four shutouts. He once said, "You can't judge a player until you've given him a chance to play in the big league." It was also a pressure-packed situation, having to take over from the legendary Glenn Hall. But Wakely made the most of his opportunity, helping lead the Blues to the Stanley Cup finals, where they were defeated in four straight games by Bobby Orr and the Boston Bruins.
Building upon his first-year success, Wakely backstopped the Blues to 20 victories the following season, starting 51 games in goal for St. Louis. By now, he had earned the reputation as being a solid NHL calibre goaltender, which was noticed not only by those in the NHL, but also scouts for the fledgling World Hockey Association. The Winnipeg Jets, already in prized possession of the Golden Jet Bobby Hull, made an offer that Wakely could not refuse. It was also an opportunity to play professional hockey in his home province. For the next two years Wakely tended goal for the Jets before moving on to the San Diego Mariners six games into the 1974-75 WHA campaign. After a brief six-game stint with the Cincinnati Stingers in 1977-78, Wakely packed his bags for Houston where he finished out the season with the Aeros.
In 1978, Wakely went to the Birmingham Bulls in what would be his final professional season and also the swan song for the WHA. Just four teams would be absorbed into the NHL. Wakely realized that at the age of 39, the chances of his landing a job were slim at best, so he decided to call it a career.
Wakely was also a member of the fabled Houston Apollos team that played in the Central League in the 1960s. Among other future NHL goalies who played there were Tony Esposito, Phil Myre, Gerry Desjardins, and Rogatien Vachon.