Joe Watson


Original Flyer & two-time Stanley Cup Champion

Joe Watson knew virtually nothing about Philadelphia when a passerby informed the Boston Bruins rookie defenseman he’d been selected by the fledgling Philadelphia Flyers in the 1967 expansion draft. “The only thing I knew about Philadelphia was: In 1964, I watched the All-Star Game and Johnny Callison hit a home run to win it,” Watson recently recalled. He never imagined back then that he would not only play in Philadelphia for more than a decade but settle down to raise his family here. “I found out I was drafted when I was flagging traffic and a guy said ‘I just heard your name. You got drafted by the Flyers,’” he remembers. (Fellow Bruins rookie, roommate, and best friend Bobby Orr later served as best man at Watson’s wedding.) “I remember we had a parade down Broad Street to welcome us to the city. There were probably more people in the parade than watching. They were saying ‘You’re not going to be here long.’” “Thank God Mr. (owner Ed) Snider stuck it out, because it’s a wonderful place to play.” Watson & Company recovered from that unceremonious beginning to quickly establish themselves as a force to reckon with. Watson became a mainstay on a defense that would anchor the Flyers to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1974 and ’75. Playing alongside his nine years younger brother Jim, the man from Smithers, B.C. was the consummate leader on the blue line. Despite scoring only 36 goals in his 11-year career in the orange and black—plus an exceptionally memorable one in the celebrated 1976 game against the Russians—Joe Watson is a worthy entry to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. “I thought it was inevitable, because I realized how important Joe was to our team,” said Jim Watson, who entered the Hall in 2014. “I looked at Joe as a leader on our hockey team and leadership is critical. “This is swell for Joe.” “It’s nice to be honored,” said 80-year-old Joe, the seventh member of those Cup teams to join the Hall and now part of the Hall’s first set of brothers. “It’s special anytime you’re honored for your accolades and the things you’ve done in your profession.” On a team loaded with firepower headed by Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, and Rick MacLeish, Watson knew his role. “I was very defensive minded,” explained Joe. “I understood the game and how to play it.” “At my position it was more important to kill a penalty and keep the opposition off the scoreboard, because we had enough guys who could score goals. I remember Freddie (Shero) used to always say, ‘Get the puck out and let the offense take care of itself.’ And that’s what happened.” Coach Shero also liked to write inspirational sayings on his office blackboard for his players. When Watson saw the message “Win together today and we walk together forever” prior to the Game 6 Stanley Cup clincher, he had no idea how prophetic it would be. “Hockey players aren’t the smartest guys in the world,” laughed Joe. “But we recognized it right off the bat and it’s still true. “When we see a guy from the team, we talk about it. It’s absolutely incredible what that meant to us.” What Joe Watson means to the Flyers goes beyond numbers. Since his retirement in 1978, he’s worked for the organization in several capacities, including serving as head of the Flyers alumni team, which traveled locally and globally to play all comers, for years. “We started in ’84,” said Joe. “We’ve raised over $3.5 million and given it to charity. Joe Watson has undoubtedly told the tales of those Stanley Cup Flyers thousands of times. But next to that day in May 1974 when they won it all, most fans want to talk about January 11, 1976, when he scored a goal in the Flyers’ 4-1 win over the Russians at the Spectrum. “We were killing a penalty when I noticed the Russians were making a line change,” Watson recalled. “So, I went up the ice and (Orest) Kindrachuk made a pass to (Don) Saleski who took the shot. “I went in there looking for a rebound. The rebound popped out and I tapped it between the goalie’s legs. Then I proved white men can’t jump very high, because I only jumped about three inches off the ice.” 47 years later, Joe Watson is making another jump: Into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, where he’ll walk together forever with the rest of the city’s all-time greats again. by Jon Marks

[ Return to Inductee Listing ]





















Charter Class (2004)

Search Inductees