Monday

Joe Watson

Joe Watson was born in Smithers, B.C. a little town of Bavarian flavour approximately approximately a 12 hour drive north of Vancouver, 200 kms east of my hometown. Needless to say I grew up a big fan of the Watsons, even though they had retired before I was really old enough to have watched them play.

His father Joe Sr. was a butcher and his mother Mary ran a restaurant when she wasn't running the family farm. She was the real hockey fan of the family. Nowadays the Smithers arena is named after her.

Joe played hockey as soon as he could walk and with the winters lasting up to half a year he had plenty of time to play hockey. Joe grew up with five brothers, among them his younger brother Jimmy, who later played in the NHL alongside Joe in Philadelphia.

Joe moved up through the amateur ranks and graduated from the Estevan Bruins (SJHL) in 1963 and signed with the Boston Bruins that same year. He played for Minneapolis Bruins (CHL) the following season, and was tested in 4 games with Boston during the 1964-65 season and registered his first NHL point, but most of the time he played in Minneapolis.

During the 1965-66 season came his breakthrough. Joe was still playing for the Bruins farm team (Oklahoma) in the CHL and posted a fine season where he was selected to the 1st All-Star team. His fine performance won him a job with the Bruins the following season (1965-66). Joe did very well and appeared in 69 games, scoring 15 points, including 2 goals.

Boston was however stacked with fine defensemen, one of them was of course a rookie named Bobby Orr. Joe was exposed in the expansion draft and got picked by Philadelphia in 1967 and became a fixture on defense for Philadelphia for the next 11 seasons. Joe was an integral part of the two Stanley Cups that Philadelphia won in 1974 and 1975.

He was known for being a hard hitter and a good defensive defenseman. He wasn't nearly as talented as his brother Jim, and was very aware of that fact. Joe never tried to do anything that was beyond his capacity, he always kept it simple and did it successfully. His steady play earned him trips to the 1974 and 1977 All-Star games. Joe's fine defensive play gave him a +191 rating during his Philadelphia career, and +178 overall.

Joe, who loved to fish in the summer times back home in Smithers, actually walked out on the Flyers in 1971 due to a contract dispute. But he quickly returned to camp after receiving a phone call from the best man at his wedding, not to mention the best man in the NHL.

"Bobby Orr called and really gave me hell. He told me i could still play another five or six years, at least - reminded me I was only twenty-eight and was just reaching my prime. Then he said I had my wife to think about, not just myself."

Obviously, Watson and Orr shared a special friendship. Here's a funny story about their living relationship once upon a time:

"We shared an apartment overlooking the Atlantic Ocean," recalled Watson. "He did the cleaning and cooking and really was a great cook. Bobby had so much energy that he did most of the work. About all I did was wash the dishes and water the plants."

Interestingly, when the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup in 1974, it came at the expense of the Boston Bruins. Orr and Watson met in the back corridor to offer congratulations.

"I offered him some champagne," Joe said, "but he was dejected and said he didn't deserve it. My good gracious, he shouldn't be dejected the way he played. He kept that team together."

Of course for Watson, winning the Stanley Cup was a dream come true.

"I've been dreaming about a Stanley Cup since I was about five or six, and when Orr and I arrived in Boston together (in 1966), I thought I might have a chance. But the next year, I was here with all the rejects."

During Joe's last season in Philadelphia (1977-78) he noticed that his ice time was reduced considerably. Knowing that he was on the end of the line in Philadelphia Joe asked to be traded to a team where he could be of any help. The Flyers obliged and sold Joe to the Colorado Rockies on August 31, 1978.

Joe was thrilled over the opportunity to play for Colorado and be able to contribute with his experience. Unfortunately Joe's career ended abruptly after only 16 games in the Colorado uniform when he crashed into the boards in a November game against St. Louis. The result of the collision was that he cracked his kneecap and fractured the bone below the kneecap in no less than 13 pieces. Immediately after having crashed into the boards linesman John D'Amico saw that it was bad. D'Amico immediately instructed Joe to not move. Before Joe was rushed to a hospital two doctors splinted his leg. The break was so bad that a bone was sticking out just below his kneecap.

Joe wanted to have his knee operated by Flyers orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joseph Torg who he knew from his days in Philadelphia and whom he trusted. He had two operations and regained about 80 % of the leg's strength. It was a sad end to a fine career. After Joe's initial disappointment that his career was over he looked back and was proud of the many achievements during his career. Two Stanley Cups, two All-Star games, scoring a big goal in the famous 1976 game vs CSKA Moscow among other things.

But Joe was most proud over the fact that he had made it to the NHL during the tough six team era.

"I made it with Boston when it was a six-team league and there weren't many openings. I'm most proud of that."

Joe finished his NHL career with 216 points (38 goals and 178 assists) in 835 regular season games as well as 15 pts (3 goals and 12 assists) in 84 playoff games. He gave hockey fans a solid performance for 16 NHL seasons.

1 comments:

Anonymous,  7:34 AM  

I sat with Joe at the Community Arts Center in Wallingford with his wife Jamie, watching music by Sharon Katz. George Mapson, a Canadian sent me your link..now I know much more about this great man, what did I know?
Maxine

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