Esso Hockey since 1936Legends Of Hockey
Esso Hockey since 1936
Watson, Harry Percival

Watson, Harry Percival

In 1994, Harry Watson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the veterans category, due in part to the support of broadcasting hosts Don Cherry and Brian Williams, who argued that the stars of the 1940s and 1950s had been ignored too long and were deserving of a place in the Hall.

Throughout his career, Watson was best known for his offensive ability, which he combined with a quiet, even temperament on the ice to complement his strong leadership. A left wing who was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in 1923, Harry Percival Watson played 14 seasons in the NHL on four different teams from 1941 to 1954.

As a junior player, he won four provincial age-group league titles, moving through the ranks as a member of the Saskatoon Wesleys minor organization. At 18, he made the jump to the NHL, entering the league with the New York Americans in 1941. He scored 10 goals and recorded eight assists in his rookie year with the Brooklyn club before the Americans disbanded just two years later. The next season he went to the Detroit Red Wings, where he was an instant hit. In his first year there his 13 goals helped the Red Wings finish first overall in the regular season. In the playoffs he was dominant as the Wings beat Boston in four straight games to win Stanley Cup.

Like many players of the day, Watson spent two years in the Canadian Armed Forces during his time with Detroit. He was stationed in Montreal, Winnipeg and Saskatoon with the RCAF during the 1943-44 and 1944-45 seasons. Watson kept his skates sharp during his service years, and in 1944 he helped the Saskatoon RCAF win the Western Command Senior Hockey Championships. Watson rejoined the Red Wings for the 1945-46 season, but the next year Conn Smythe acquired him for the Toronto Maple Leafs - a trade Watson later said was one of the highlights of his career. No wonder, in Toronto he quickly teamed up with center Syl Apps and tough guy Bill Ezinicki to form a scoring trio feared around the league. This troika helped the Leafs win the Stanley Cup four times during Watson's nine seasons at Maple Leaf Gardens, giving him a total of five Cup wins in his career.

As an individual, Watson's best year was with the Leafs in 1948-49. He led the club in scoring with 26 goals and, unbelievably, didn't record a single penalty minute throughout the season. He also scored the eventual Stanley Cup-winning goal that year en route to a 4-0 swamp of his old team, the Red Wings. Leafs fans also remember Watson as the one who assisted on Bill Barilko's legendary overtime Cup-winning goal in 1951 against goalie Gerry McNeil of Montreal. His time in Toronto didn't last forever, though. After the first eight games of the 1954-55 season, Conn Smythe sold him to Chicago for cash. He played three seasons with the Black Hawks before finishing his NHL career in 1957.

Overall, Watson played in 809 regular-season games in the NHL, scoring 236 career goals to go with 207 assists for 443 career points. In addition to his five Stanley Cup wins, Watson's teams succeeded in making the playoffs in nine of the 14 years he played. He also played in seven All-Star games, usually as a member of the Cup-winning team. Following his retirement from the Bisons, Watson jumped full-time into coaching with the St. Catharines TeePees - a farm team for the Black Hawks - in the Ontario Hockey Association Junior A league. He coached several other minor teams as well, and even led the Windsor Bulldogs to the OHA Senior A league's Allan Cup in 1963.

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