Philadelphia Flyers

What’s it like playing against Flyers legends? Alumni vs Warriors showcase recap

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Joe Watson was honored by the Flyers Alumni for his 54 years of service to the Philadelphia Flyers Organization. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has been around the Philadelphia area since he retired from an NHL career that spanned 13 years. Watson scored a short-handed goal against Vladislav Tretiak, of the Soviet Red Army. The goal that legendary Head Coach Fred Shero stated: “set Russian Hockey back 25 years.”

There was a game to be played and it was hyped up on social media. There was chirping from Alumni President and Warrior Head Coach, Brad Marsh. Hell, the Flyers Alumni even made sure to bring in some extra muscle. Why? Because they knew they were in for a fight. They faced an opponent that has literally been to war, as they took on the Flyers Warriors. The game was dubbed “The NHL’s Toughest vs America’s Bravest!’

Warriors Coaches and Board Members Make It A Memorable Day

I am a genuine C-Level men’s leaguer. Nobody, except for my two kids, would confuse me for an NHL player. On a side note, It really is cool when your kids still think you’re Superman. I mention this is because I never knew what it was like to be treated as a high-level hockey player. I think most of us veterans would say the same. I only played organized hockey for one year. I was six years old.

Last Sunday, Warrior Coaches Marsh, Rob Baer, and Bob “The Hound” Kelly gave us that experience as a thank you for our service. We thank you for the support. Fellow warrior, Craig Nolan directed me to my team’s (Tier II) locker room. As I turned the corner I ran into my friend, and former Flyers Head Equipment Manager, Derek “Nasty” Settlemyre. Nasty, who I haven’t seen in a couple of months, greeted me with a handshake or a hug, I can’t remember, and said “Hey Brother, go check it out!” I walked into the Locker Room and was greeted by a glorious sight. There was a locker with my new jersey hanging in the stall. A full kit to include a practice shirt with my number, socks, and shell – all of which resembled the old All-Star Jerseys from 1983-1988.

Simply Amazing! 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! Congrats “Chevy!” In all, it was an amazing day!

Back to the Man of the Hour, Joe Watson

As I mentioned above, the games started out with a ceremonial puck drop. Captain Timmy Wynn and Watson to the face-off. Warriors President, William Duffy then presented Watson with a new Warriors Jersey. Watson gave a speech and was extremely thankful and humble. I don’t think he said “me” once. He thanked us warriors and of course Marshy for all his hard work as Alumni President.

A little about Joe Watson. He was the oldest of six Watson brothers growing up in the small town of Smithers, British Columbia. The Boston Bruins signed Watson in 1963. He shared an apartment with Hall of Fame Defenseman, Bobby Orr during their rookie year of 1966-67. Orr won the Calder that year, Watson came in fourth. That offseason, Watson traveled home to Smithers and worked at the Public Works Department. Watson’s salary was not enough to sustain him through the off-season. It was there he found out he was drafted by the Flyers in the expansion draft.

A Rocky Start to Watson’s Hall of Fame Career

Watson was depressed. He and fellow disgruntled defenseman, Ed Van Impe held out. Watson eventually returned and played for the Flyers who lost a seven-game playoff series to the St. Louis Blues. In 1971, the Flyers were showing promise as Bobby Clarke arrived along with Fred Shero. Feeling as though the Flyers were shopping him in a trade, Watson left camp in 1971. Enter former teammate, the best man at his wedding, Bobby Orr. Orr called Watson and as Watson described it, “really give me hell.” Orr reminded Watson about he now had a family to think about. Watson got the message and returned to camp.

Jimmy Watson was joined by his older brother in the 1973-74 season. Bernie Parent was re-acquired via trade that off-season and the Broad Street Bullies were set. Led by the Watson’s, Van Impe, Andre Dumont, and the late Barry Ashbee, the Flyers’ defense was set. With Parent in net, a young Captain in Clarke, the rest is history.

Back to The Game

I was fortunate to play against the Flyers Alumni about six years ago. During a Hockey Fights Cancer Tournament, at Ice Works. Our team raised the most amount of money for our friend, whose daughter was undergoing treatments. The Alumni crushed us. During the game, I noticed that at the age of 72, Joe Watson was impossible to get around as his stick was fast, very fast. At 78, it was damn near the same.

While playing right-wing, I had two opportunities to get around the elder Flyer. First, I chipped the puck up the boards when trying to clear our zone. Watson stopped it and in our zone, they went. The puck came to me again. 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 right into my path. Knowing that I’d face the wrath of all the Alumni had I collided with Mr. Watson, I decided to bank the puck off of the boards to myself. Being that Watson was about four to five feet off the boards, surely that would work. Wrong! Watson with a simple flick of the wrist knocked down the self-pass and pinned the puck on the boards.

As for the game, well as expected those pesky NHLers got the best of us. There were a lot of smiles, laughs, and memories.

Other Notes:

Retired Navy Chief Nehemiah Tinsley was celebrating his birthday on Sunday in style. The Warrior netminder posted just before the game stating his excitement. Well for his effort, Nehemiah received maybe one of the best birthdays. Shot after shot after shot, to include one John LeClair barreling into him, knocking off his mask in the process. Happy Birthday, Neh!

The Tier I team jumped out to a 2-1 start. Then, Danny Briere got free in on a breakaway. Duffy, who is a solid goalie, stood no chance.

Follow along with the Flyers Alumni and the Warriors on Twitter to see what they are up to. The Warriors are set to host the Warrior Classic in November.

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Matt is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a degree in Journalism. After College he was commissioned as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army where he was an Airborne Ranger and served with the famed 101st Airborne Division. RAKKASAN! When not at work you can find him coaching his son and daughter's sports teams.  Follow Matt, AKA the Delco Dope on twitter at https://twitter.com/delco_dope

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