Nicknamed "Bugsy" by Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio, Bryan Watson was known to be an agitator extraordinaire. He bothered people, doing whatever it took to make them lose their concentration.
In spite of Bryan's small size (5'9" and 175 Ibs), most people were distinctly aware of his presence. Ken Schinkel, a former teammate and coach of Bryan once said " Bryan is very verbal, and will take whatever steps are necessary to do his thing. That thing means to get into fights, give elbows, and make people boo when he comes to the ice."
Schinkel also recalled when he played against Bryan.
"I felt it when Bryan came to say hello in the corners. You always knew you got hit when Bugsy got to you. "
Watson himself used to say that the contact felt good and got his circulation moving. Pete Stemkowski of the Rangers called him a "Madman". Denis Potvin once described how during a fight Bryan drove his head right into his cheek. Anything counted in Bryan's book. His style of play could easily be seen on his PIM totals. Bryan had 2212 Pim's in only 878 games.
Intimidation was the name of the game for Bryan. He was a pretty bad skater and shooter but he had more guts than most players and that is what kept him in the NHL for such a long time. He only scored 17 goals in the 878 games and had 152 points.
A loyal and absolutely fearless player who never hesitated to stop pucks with his head if the situation called for it, Bryan was a great teammate. In the dressing room he was always on the lookout for a good practical joke. He knew when to lighten the bench, and when to set a fire under someone's ass. He was definitely one of those players who every team liked to have on their side.
But among his opponents he was the kind of player that you loved to hate in the same fashion as an Eddie Shack, Theoren Fleury, or Sean Avery. In other words, you loved to have him on your team but you hated to play against him, because he could be really mean.
This Bancroft, Ontario native played his junior career for the Peterborough Petes in the OHA. He then toiled a short while in the minors before being called up to the Montreal Canadiens where he played 39 regular season games during the 1963-64 season as well as 6 playoff games, but he didn't make much of a name for himself. It was apparent that Bryan's bruising style was not going to fit the fleet style of play that the Canadiens were noted for, so they traded him to Chicago on June 8, 1965. One day later he was claimed by Detroit in the intra-league draft.
Watson spent two years in Detroit, drawing some praise for his job checking Bobby Hull in the 1966 playoffs. Yet he would be claimed by Minnesota in the expansion draft in 1967. The North Stars traded him back to Montreal the same day. Once again he had a short stint with the Canadiens and spend most of his time in the AHL and CHL. Needless to say, Watson's luggage was starting to get worn out after all this movement.
It was during the 1967-68 season that Bryan drew some fame. He managed to lead the CHL in penalty minutes (293) in only 50 games, but he also was named the best defenseman in the CHL as well as being the MVP of the league and a first team All-Star.
He was traded to Oakland in 1968 and then to Pittsburgh in 1969. He managed to stay over 5 seasons in the Steel City, and led the NHL with 212 PIMs in 1971-72.
But Bryan continued to be a well traveled player. He played in St. Louis and Detroit once again before finishing his career with three seasons in Washington. In 878 NHL games he scored just 17 times while setting up 135 others. He retired with 2212 PIMs, then a NHL all time record.
After a short coaching tenure with the early 1980s Edmonton Oilers, Watson would stay in the Washington area in retirement, opening up Bugsy’s Pizza Restaurant & Sports Bar in nearby Alexandria, Virginia.
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