Backchecking With Joe Watson
Friday, 01.21.2005 / 12:00 AM / News
Second of two parts
By Zack Hill
Flyers Hall of Famer Joe Watson recently sat down with philadelphiaflyers.com to discuss his playing days, life in Smithers, British Columbia, his life after hockey and Bobby Orr. (Actually, we saw Joe in one of the hallways of the Wachovia Center and after asking "how you doin?"we had enough material for a two-part series with the former Flyer two hours later. Joe was still talking when we left.)
Watson played 11 seasons for the Flyers, from 1967-68 through 1977-78 and still holds the team record for most career games by a defenseman, 746 (fourth on the team’s All-Time List). He was a two-time All-Star and the winner of the first Barry Ashbee Trophy as the most outstanding Flyers defenseman (1974-75).
This is the second of two parts.
Q: You seem to be a very free-spirited person. Are you a chip off your old dad’s block?
Watson:"Let me tell you a story about my dad. It is about two hours before faceoff during the Stanley Cup Finals at the Spectrum and I am getting ready for the game. I get a phone call in the locker room and it is my father. He says, ‘Hey, Joe, I’m at the airport.’ I ask him which airport. He tells me that he is at the Philadelphia airport. He has no money and no ticket for the game. All he had was the clothes on his back and a box with a rope around it, which he used as his suitcase. It is about 95 degrees outside (remember, this is May) and he is wearing long wool underwear, bib overalls and rubber boots that are covered in cow dung. I told my father to tell the cabbie who he was and that when he got to the Spectrum that I would pay the taxi fare. My dad arrives at the arena, we pay the fare and now we have to get him a ticket into the game. I am in a real bind, so I ask Mr. Snider if my dad can sit with him in his suite. Mr. Snider agreed. There, sitting in the suite, was Mr. Snider, our national anthem singer, Kate Smith, former city mayor, Frank Rizzo, and Jed Clampett (my dad) with cow dung all over his boots. What a sight that was! A couple of days later, it was agreed that NBC broadcasters Tim Ryan and Ted Lindsey were to interview my dad during our next game at the Spectrum. That same day the Philadelphia Phillies were hosting the Montreal Expos in a double-header across the street at Veterans Stadium. My dad is a big baseball fan and wanted to see the game so I get him a ticket. As time goes by, my dad is nowhere to be found for the interview. Here we are, playing in the Stanley Cup Finals and my dad doesn’t want to leave the second game of the double-header and misses our game. What a character."
Q: What was it like playing with your brother, Jim, with the Flyers?
Watson:"That was very special. Making the NHL, playing in an All-Star game, winning the Stanley Cup and playing with my brother were all gravy to me. We were the fourth brother combination in the history of the NHL to play in the NHL and win the Stanley Cup together. That is a good trivia question. The brothers before us were the Patricks (Lynn and Muzz), the Cooks (Bun and Bill) and the Richards (Henri and Maurice).
Q: You go back to your birthplace, Smithers, every year. What do you do when you go back?
Watson:"I am an outdoorsman. I used to do a lot of hunting when I was younger, but now I do a lot of fishing. Back in the day, just before training camp, I would do a lot of mountain climbing, hunting moose, caribou, grizzly bear, wolves, mountain sheep and goats. I would be 12,000 feet above sea level chasing these animals and it actually got me in pretty good shape. I would come back down to sea level and go to training camp. I could go forever with all that extra oxygen. I would carry this 30- to 40-pound backpack up in the mountains so that kept me in pretty good shape, too. When I go back now, my favorite outdoor activity is salmon fishing for four or five days. I also participate in an annual golf tournament in Smithers. My name had been associated with the tourney for 12 years, but now another Smithers native, Dan Hamhuis from the Nashville Predators, is associated with the tourney. We raise a lot of money for various charities."
Q: What is better, Pacific Ocean salmon or Atlantic Ocean salmon?
Watson:"Pacific salmon is much better than Atlantic salmon because they are bigger and they have more meat on them."
Q: Do you have any good hunting stories that you could share with the readers?
Watson:"How much time do you have? Sure I do. These two fellows who were half American Indian and half Caucasian used to take me hunting up north. We were finishing our hunting trip, driving back home and decided to stop one last time. We had some apricot brandy with us, about 130 miles away from civilization on a dirt road. We were driving over this little wooden bridge and we looked down at the water and it was pure red. Salmon were starting to spawn and made the creek look like that. When you see salmon, grizzly bears can’t be too far away because they love to eat salmon. We look about 200 yards down the creek and sure enough we see four huge grizzly bears. We were not feeling any pain, due to the apricot brandy, and the more we drank the more we became interested in hunting grizzly bears. The next thing you know, my buddy takes his gun and tries to shoot this 750-pound bear from 200 yards away. He hits the bear and it lets out a roar and all four bears scatter. Now we have to chase this wounded bear. We started wading down this four feet deep creek. My buddy who shot the bear was leading the charge and me, the gutless one, trailed behind. I am thinking that I do not have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun my two friends and being on the opposite side of the creek gave me a good head start. Eventually, we were able to kill the bear and my buddy has the bear skin to prove it."
"Another time, I went hunting with my uncle Wilf in British Columbia. It was the first time that I hunted with a scope on my rifle. We were hunting for four or five days and we decide to go across this mountain range. We crossed this range and I looked up and saw about 12 mountain sheep staring down at me. I grabbed my rifle and looked through the scope and "BOOM"I shot at the sheep. I didn’t realize that the rifle had such a strong kick and the scope was implanted into my face and I had this deep semi-circle cut underneath my eye. I was bleeding pretty badly, I was (peed) off and I missed the sheep. I believe that was the last time that I used a scope, too."
"I was up in Smithers once with former Philadelphia Eagle Bill Bergey, my uncle Wilf told us about the time a grizzly bear crashed through his front door. My uncle was working as a watchman at an old mine in the wilderness of British Columbia. There was no one else around, but my uncle and his family. One day, my uncle was taking out the garbage and he sees this old grizzly bear with no teeth eyeing him up for dinner. When grizzly bears lose their teeth, they are looking for something soft to eat and apparently he thought that my uncle would be a good, tender meal. Lo and behold, the bear charges my uncle, who happened to be 82 years old at the time. Uncle Wilf runs for his life into the house, slams the door behind him, grabs his gun and yells for his family to run out the back door. They run out the back door as Uncle Wilf runs halfway up the stairs to the second floor ready for the attack. Within seconds, the grizzly bear knocks the front door down. My uncle was ready and shot the bear four times before the bear finally collapsed. Blood was all over the place, but thank goodness it was none of the family’s blood. We never did figure out who was older, the bear or my 82-year-old uncle."
Q: Rumor has it that during your playing days you used to put on clinics and that one of your students was a child named Mark Recchi.
Watson:"Yes, I used to do clinics in Recchi’s hometown of Kamloops, British Columbia. He was about four or five years old. I knew his dad, Mel, because he and I used to play baseball together in Kamloops. When I left Smithers to play hockey in 1967, I used to have a friend who took classes in Kamloops. I used to visit my friend in the summer and that’s how my friendship started with Mark’s father."
Q: How are your children doing?
Watson: My 28-year-old son, Ryan, has a successful career on Wall Street. He is making more money than I ever made, that is for sure. My 25-year-old daughter, Heidi, works as a nurse at the VA Hospital here in Philadelphia. They are great young kids and are doing very well in their lives."
Q: And your status?
Watson:"I’m not married, but I have a wonderful woman in my life named Jamie Comisky."
Q: What are your responsibilities with the Flyers these days?
Watson:"I work in the Advertising Sales Department as a senior account executive. We are trying to keep ourselves busy selling other products, like the Philadelphia Phantoms, Wings indoor lacrosse, Soul indoor football and the 76ers. I am trying to have some of my clients who have a large advertising package with the Flyers advertise with the other professional sports like the ones I mentioned. We are all just waiting for the lockout to end and NHL hockey to resume. I’ve been doing this since 1986 and this is the most difficult time that we have all had."
Q: Your stories are very entertaining. Can you give the readers one story from your playing days?
Watson:"We were in the playoffs in 1974 and Freddy Shero had us sequestered at a local hotel in King of Prussia, PA. There used to be all these people who would show up at the hotel wanting to get autographs. They would hang around the hotel lobby and outside the hotel. I guess that you would call them ‘groupies.’ They would drive outside with their car windows down blaring music and causing a minor ruckus. My roommate, Eddie Van Impe, and I were trying to get some sleep one night and we heard this loud music outside of our hotel window five floors below. I look down below and there is this convertible with the top down right underneath our window just blaring the music as bloody loud as can be. I yelled down for them to turn the music down, but they did not know who I was and that I was trying to get some sleep for the game the next day. They just kept playing the music. Well, it was time for me to get even with them. I got this huge bucket of ice water and threw it out the window. I watched (laughing hysterically) as the water hit right on target - all over the car’s occupants and all over the interior of the convertible. It was an absolute perfect pour! The next thing you know, all is quiet and Eddie and I got some shut eye."
Click here to read Part One