Joe watson was honored by Flyers Alumni for his 54 years of service to the Philadelphia Flyers Organization. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has been in the Philadelphia area since retiring from a 13-year NHL career. Watson scored a shorthanded goal against Vladislav Tretyak of the Soviet Red Army. The goal that legendary head coach Fred Shero has declared: “to set Russian hockey back 25 years”.
There was a game to play and it was publicized on social media. There were tweets from Alumni President and Warrior Head Coach Brad Marsh. Hell, the Alumni Flyers even made sure to bring in some extra muscle. Why? Because they knew they were going to fight. They faced an opponent who literally went to war, as they faced the Warrior flyers. The game was dubbed “America’s Toughest vs. Bravest!”
Warriors coaches and board members make it a day to remember
I’m a true C-level male leaguer. No one except my two kids would mistake me for an NHL player. By the way, it’s really cool when your kids still think you’re Superman. I mention this because I never knew what it was like to be treated like a top hockey player. I think most of us veterans would say the same thing. I only played organized hockey for a year. I was six years old.
Last Sunday, coaches Warrior Marsh, Rob Baer and Bob “The Hound” Kelly offered us this experience as a thank you for our service. Thank you for the support. Fellow warrior, Craig Nolan directed me to my team’s locker room (level II). As I turned the corner, I ran into my friend and former Flyers equipment manager, Derek âNastyâ Settlemyre. Nasty, who I haven’t seen in a few months, greeted me with a handshake or a hug, I can’t remember, and said âHey brother, check this out! I entered the locker room and was greeted with a wonderful view. There was a locker with my new jersey hanging in the stall. A complete kit to include a training jersey with my number, socks and a shell – all of which looked like the old All-Star jerseys from 1983-1988.
Simply extraordinary! Lauren Hart sang the national anthems and Steve Coates was on hand to help coach the alumni. Members of the Stanley Cup champion teams included Dave Schultz, Bob Kelly, Jimmy Watson, Bill Clement, Larry Goodenough and Orest Kindrachuk all dropped the first puck. There was even a proposal! Congratulations “Chevy!” All in all it was an amazing day!
Back to the man of the hour, Joe Watson
As I mentioned above, the games started with a puck handover ceremony. Captain Timmy Wynn and Watson face to face. Warriors president William Duffy then presented Watson with a new Warriors jersey. Watson gave a speech and was extremely grateful and humble. I don’t think he said “me” once. He thanked us Warriors and of course Marshy for all his hard work as President of the Elders.
A little bit about Joe Watson. He was the oldest of six Watson brothers who grew up in the small town of Smithers, British Columbia. The Boston Bruins signed Watson in 1963. He shared an apartment with Hall of Famer defenseman Bobby Orr during their rookie year of 1966-67. Orr won the Calder that year, Watson came in fourth. This offseason, Watson returned home to Smithers and worked in the public works department. Watson’s salary was not enough to support him during the offseason. It was there that he found out he had been drafted by the Flyers in the expansion draft.
A difficult start for Watson’s Hall of Fame career
Watson was depressed. He and his disgruntled fellow defender Ed Van Impe held on. Watson eventually returned and played for the Flyers who lost a seven-game playoff streak to the St. Louis Blues. In 1971, the Flyers were showing promise when Bobby Clarke arrived with Fred Shero. Feeling as if the Flyers were buying him from a business, Watson left the camp in 1971. Enter ex-teammate, witness to his marriage, Bobby Orr. Orr called Watson and, as Watson described it, “really give me hell”. Orr reminded Watson that he now had a family to think about. Watson received the message and returned to camp.
Jimmy Watson was joined by his older brother in the 1973-74 season. Bernie Parent was bought out via trading this offseason and the Broad Street Bullies were set. Led by the Watson, Van Impe, Andre Dumont and the late Barry Ashbee, the Flyers’ defense was established. With Parent in the net, a young captain at Clarke, the rest is history.
Back to the game
I had the chance to play against the Flyers Alumni about six years ago. During a Hockey Fights Cancer tournament at Ice Works. Our team raised the most money for our friend, whose daughter was in treatment. The Alumni have crushed us. During the game, I noticed that at 72 years old, Joe Watson was impossible to move because his stick was so fast, very fast. At 78, it was pretty darn the same.
By playing on the right, I had two chances to get around the elder Flyer. First, I chipped the puck on the tape while trying to clear our area. Watson stopped him and in our area they went. The puck came back to me. This time I was going to skate around Joe. He was yelling at me, something like “HEY HEY!” I looked up and as if he was a magician, Watson seemed to levitate in my path. Knowing that I would face the wrath of all the alumni if ââI collided with Mr. Watson, I decided to put the puck on the boards for myself. Considering that Watson was about four to five feet from the boards, that would surely work. Wrong! Watson, with a flick of his wrist, knocked down the auto-pass and nailed the puck to the board.
As for the game, as expected, those damn NHL players got the better of us. There were a lot of smiles, laughs and memories.
Retired Naval Chief Nehemiah Tinsley celebrated his birthday on Sunday in style. The Warrior’s goalkeeper posted just before the game to express his excitement. Well, for his efforts, Nehemiah maybe received one of the best birthdays. Blow after blow after blow, to include a John LeClair rushing at him, dropping his mask in the process. Happy birthday, Neh!
The Level I team got off to a 2-1 start. Then, Danny BriÃ¨re broke free in a breakaway. Duffy, who is a solid goalie, didn’t stand a chance.
Follow Alumni Flyers and Warriors on Twitter to see what they’re up to. The Warriors are expected to host the Warrior Classic in November.