Saturday, June 16, 2007

Tim Watters

It is becoming increasingly rare to see a defenseman in the NHL nowadays who is under 6 feet tall and 200lbs. A few shrubs have prospered over the years in a forest of gigantic trees - Mike O'Connell, Bob Murray, Norm MacIver and Don Sweeney immediately come to mind in recent times. One that might not is Tim "Muddy" Watters.

Though he played in 2 Olympics and well over 700 NHL games, Watters quietly had a nice career by playing a solid though unspectacular role from 1981 through 1995 with the Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings - two teams that didn't enjoy much success or fanfare.

Just 5'11 and 185 lbs, Watters learned to play an intelligent game in the National Hockey League. He learned to be in perfect position and angled shooters out of harm's way, as there was little chance he could out muscle many of the incoming attackers. He read the oncoming rushes very well, and thanklessly cut off passing lanes and blocked shots.

Physically he learned to tie up players sticks and was one of the few modern players to master the hip check.

And though his quiet style hides it, he had a decent package of skills. He was a very good skater. And he could carry the puck out of his own zone or headman a breakout pass equally well. However his defensive posturing meant he rarely attempted much in the offensive zone.

Born in Kamloops BC, Watters played with the hometown Blazers for one year before bolting major junior hockey in Canada for NCAA college hockey with Michigan Tech in 1977. He played there for three years, helping the Huskies win a NCAA championship in 1981.

His tenure with the Huskies was interrupted during the 1979-80 season when he left school to play with the Canadian National Team. Making that team all but assured Watters a chance to represent his country at the 1980 Olympics, which he did - scoring 2 points in 6 games.

After graduating from college Watters turned pro in 1981 with the Jets, who drafted him back in 1979. Over the next 6 years the likable Watters became a mainstay on the Jets blue line.

During the 1987-88 season Watters became a bit of a spare part in Winnipeg. The Jets released him to play with the Canadian Olympic team during the 1988 Calgary Olympics, another definite highlight of Watters career.

After that season, feeling that his best hockey was behind him, the Jets let Watters go as a free agent. He signed quickly with the Los Angeles Kings. Tim enjoyed 2 solid years with Wayne Gretzky's Kings. By 1990 Tim became a spare part in Los Angeles too. But he continued to play for parts of 5 more years, acting almost as an on-ice coach, helping the Kings younger defensemen along. He also spent some time in the minor leagues, doing a similar job.

Watter's contributions to his team were usually of the unnoticeable and thankless variety. It is because of players like that that teams win. So you can be rest assured that Watters coaches and teammates noticed his work, and thanked him on a nightly basis.


Anonymous,  11:30 AM  

Good summary of the career of an unheralded NHL player. Currently, Tim works in commercial real estate and plays weekly pickup/beer-league hockey with us here in Phoenix, Arizona. It's still a pleasure to watch him on the ice.

Anonymous,  7:11 PM  

Great character guy on the ice, tremendous character guy off the ice.

Unknown 1:49 PM  

Was eating dinner with my gorgeous cousin last night at the Rokerij in phx... 2 gentlemen sat down at the bar next to us and told us they were Canadian.. Being that both me and my cousin are from Detriot we immediately opened up talking about hockey.. To make it short.. I had no idea I was sitting next to a defensive legend!! What a truly nice gentlemen and hope soon to be able to play some hockey with him !! I especially liked it when I asked if he played with Gretzky ? He replied, " Gretzky played with me." lol !!

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