Minnesota Duluth will retire the number 14 of Bill Watson during a first intermission ceremony tonight at Amsoil Arena when the Bulldogs host Denver to open NCHC play. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:07 p.m.
Watson played three seasons at UMD from 1982-1985 before leaving a year early to play for the Chicago Blackhawks. He was a two-time All-American and won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award in 1985.
I had a chance to talk this week with Watson’s former teammate at UMD, current Tampa Bay Lightning Senior Advisor to the General Manager and 1984 Hobey Baker winner Tom Kurvers; former UMD head coach Mike Sertich (1982-2000); and current UMD head coach Scott Sandelin, who has played and coached against Watson and most recently coached alongside him.
Here is what those three had to say, plus some thoughts on the honor from Watson. Check out the Duluth News Tribune and duluthnews.com on Saturday for an extended feature on Watson.
“We knew he was our best player the year I won (the Hobey). Absolutely he was our best player.”
“The great players don’t have to try as hard as the rest of us. He could just play. It was what he loved to do. It was instinctive. He’s a terrific athlete. Anything he does athletically, he has natural ability. That translated to hockey better than most. Hockey is a different kind of sport and he made things look easy.”
“There was never a dull moment, No. 1. He was probably one of the most humorous guys I’ve ever worked with.”
“Sometimes you have to look at the person for not where he’s been but where he is now. That’s what makes me proudest to see him as a husband and dad and a pretty substantial contributor to Duluth and the program.”
“When I first got the job here, him and I had been friends because we were both assistant coaches and spent some time on the road together. I knew Bill from the playing days. When I got the job, I spent may a night at his house when I went back and forth before I officially got here.”
“To have him on the staff is good. The guys love him. He’s got that personality. He’s fun to be around.”
“The one (moment) I look back on the most from my three years of playing here was when we won our first WCHA championship at home against Wisconsin. Just watching the town and the school, it was such a huge boost and shot in the arm for our town and our school at the time. I think that is what put it in such a unique perspective.”
“It was such an honor when Scott asked me to come back and being in and around the program. If I’ve done anything, it’s trying to install that passion about being a Bulldog, the passion of what it takes to play. For me, it’s been a wonderful, wonderful ride.”
“For us at UMD, we’re pretty selfish because we’re very proud of the fact that we have five (Hobey) winners and no one else in college hockey has five winners. It just speaks volumes of our program and our city. That now is what makes the award mean that much more.”