When the Philadelphia Flyers won Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, the players' fathers undoubtedly boasted to anyone who would listen "that's my boy!" Back home in Smithers, BC Joe Watson Jr. could say that about his son Joe, but then he could also say "that's my boy, too!" as younger son Jimmy was also on the team.
Despite being named the most outstanding defenseman in Western Canadian Hockey League in 1972 (ahead of Phil Russell, Larry Sacharuk and Tom Bladon), Jimmy Watson (not be confused with Jim Watson, another NHL defenseman at the same time) was not selected in the 1972 NHL draft until 39th overall to the Philadelphia Flyers.
How did 38 players and 13 defensemen get drafted ahead of Watson? Defensemen who never amounted to much like Pierre Guite, Wayne Elder, and Paul Shakes? The New York Rangers passed on Watson four times!It even took the Flyers three tries to land Watson, after alnding Bill Barber and Bladon with earlier picks.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but history shows Jim Watson should have not been overlooked. Two years later he was helping the Flyers make the first of three consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup finals, winning it all in 1974 and 1975.
"God, you don't know how many times as a kid I played imaginary Stanley Cups at home," Jimmy said after the first Stanley Cup title in 1974.
Joe and Jim were amongst 6 brothers who grew up playing hockey on frozen Lake Kathleen near their tiny hometown of Smithers, BC. The town is one of the most beautiful in all of BC, but it is cold. Back in those days the lakes would freeze from October through April, and kids never thought twice about playing in 20-below-zero temperatures.
"Sometimes we'd have to use a hunk of frozen horse manure for a puck," Jim recalled. "Real frustration i when the ice is beautiful on Lake Kathleen and it's your turn to break off the peice of turd."
Though the Watsons went on to big city careers, they never forgot their hometown.
"In the summer I play golf and swim and go water skiing. Big cities like Philadelphia and Vancouver always make me appreciate the beauty of Smithers. Joe and I do a lot of bike riding and mountain climbing."
Older brother Joe tells stories of how kid brother Jimmy just followed him around wanting to play sports.
"Anything I would do, Jimmy would want to do with me. I always had the kid brother tagging along. In baseball I'd be the pitcher, and I made him the catcher and three the ball as hard as I could."
Jimmy also quit hockey altogether in junior, leaving the Calgary Centennials in mid season as a 17 year old. He travelled to Philadelphia to visit Joe. After watching two weeks of the Flyers practice and play, Jimmy returned with is desire to play in the NHL firmly found.
It worked out well. He played in 9 full NHL seasons, playing in 613 career games, mostly tagging along with big brother Joe. He scored 38 goals and 186 points in his NHL career, and of course won two Stanley Cup championships. He participated in 5 NHL All Star games and was part of Team Canada at the 1976 Canada Cup.
Injuries cut Watson's career short. A scary eye injury at the 1976 Canada Cup was followed by a broken shoulder and then spinal fusion surgery by 1980. Watson came back but knew he wasn't the same player.
With a touch of regret Watson retired early, taking a scouting job with the Flyers. He later became a successful owner of a home construction business in Delaware, County, Pennsylvania.