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|UMD alumnus Bill Watson|
Move over Brett Hull and Keith “Huffer” Christiansen (‘68), you have some company. On Oct. 24, UMD officially retired Bill Watson‘s (‘90) No. 14 jersey during a first intermission ceremony at AMSOIL Arena, making the former Hobey Baker Memorial Award recipient the third Bulldog male in any sport to be so recognized. He joined fellow UMD hockey alumni Hull, whose No. 29 was retired on Feb. 3, 2006, and Christiansen, whose No. 9 was retired on Jan. 30, 1988, in that exclusive club.
“We congratulate Bill Watson on this most honored achievement,” said UMD Athletic Director Josh Berlo. “The Bulldogs are proud to claim him as our own. In addition, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Number Retirement Committee for their work this summer defining the criteria to determine this most significant honor. It was not an easy task as UMD hockey has had many, many great players in its history. We are sure to have more number retirements in the near future.”
Watson, who owns the distinction of being the only individual to play and coach in a NCAA Frozen Four championship game with the Bulldogs, capped off a fabulous three-year playing career in 1984-85 by winning the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the most outstanding player in college hockey. That winter he became the first — and only — Bulldog to ever crack the 100-point plateau, finishing his junior year with a then NCAA-record 109 points (49 goals and 60 assists) while helping propel UMD to its second consecutive NCAA Frozen Four appearance and Western Collegiate Hockey Association championship. The Powerview, Manitoba, native and two-time All-American (1983-84 and 1984-85) paced the WCHA scoring for a second straight season that year en route to being chosen the league’s Most Valuable Player. In 108 lifetime outings, Watson racked up 210 points for a 1.94 points per game average — the best figure ever turned in by a Bulldog. He also set club single-season records (all of which still stand) for assists (60) and multiple-point games (36) as well as longest overall point-scoring streak (33 games). As a sophomore, Watson and the Bulldogs advanced for the first time ever to the NCAA final in Lake Placid, N.Y., where they fell 5-4 in four overtimes to Bowling Green State University.
A member of both the UMD Athletic Hall of Fame (Class of 1997) and Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame (Class of 2013), Watson passed up his final year of collegiate eligibility to skate with the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks, who drafted him in 1982 (fourth round, 70th selection overall). He played four seasons and 115 regular season games as a Blackhawk and in 1986-87 received the Emery-Edge Award for compiling the best plus-minus rating of any Chicago skater. Watson went on to serve as a student assistant coach at UMD during the 1989-90 season and as head coach with the (Junior B) Northlands Voyageurs (1990-91) and the College of St. Scholastica (1991-95). From 1995-96 to 1997-98, he was employed in an assistant coaching capacity at Western Michigan University.
In 2006-07, Watson returned to his alma mater and signed on as a volunteer assistant coach, a position he held through last spring. During that eight-year stretch, he was part of one NCAA national champion (2010-11), three NCAA Tournament qualifiers (2008-09, 2010-11 and 2011-12), and one Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff title winner (2008-09). Watson took a leave of absence from coaching this season but remains with the Bulldog program as an operations assistant.
Sophomore left winger Alex Iafallo currently wears No. 14 for the Bulldogs, but once his UMD career is completed, that number will be put out of circulation. “Having your number retired is the highest — and most humbling — honor that can be bestowed on a player,” said Watson. “I have been blessed in so many ways and accomplished a lot during my time with the Bulldog hockey program, but this tops them all. It’s the cherry on top.”
Article contributed by UMD Alumni Association
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