Leaf of the Day - Oct. 1, 2008 - Bill Root

Oct. 1, 2008 - Bill Root

Bill Root was picked up by the Leafs just prior to the 1984-85 season in which they finished dead last.  Bill, who had managed to lead the Habs in plus/minus in 1983-84, went -25 in only 35 games with the Leafs, but that was sadly not atypical for that team.

I have only one real memory of Bill in a Leaf uniform.  In the deciding game of the first round of the 1987 playoffs, Toronto was up by a goal on the St. Louis Blues with time running short.  With the Leafs putting pressure on St. Louis, Root let a shot go from just past the right face-off circle that gave the Leafs their insurance and pretty much ensured they would win the series.  Bob Cole could barely squeak it out: "Root .....*choke, gag, splutter* ... SCOOOOORRRES!"

The second time he was acquired, he came from the Flyers in exchange for Mike Stothers.  Mike, IIRC, was less than thrilled about coming to a lowly team like Toronto from mighty Philly, then could barely make a crummy Leaf defense.  Philly took him back, but neither he nor Root played another NHL game.



1975-76      Don Mills Flyers      MTHL      46      6      39      45      102                              
1976-77     Niagara Falls Flyers     OMJHL     66     3     19     22     114                        
1977-78     Niagara Falls Flyers     OMJHL     67     6     11     17     61                        
1978-79     Niagara Falls Flyers     OMJHL     67     4     31     35     119         20     4     7     11     42
1979-80     Nova Scotia Voyageurs     AHL     55     4     15     19     57         6     1     1     2     2
1980-81     Nova Scotia Voyageurs     AHL     63     3     12     15     76         6     0     1     1     2
1981-82     Nova Scotia Voyageurs     AHL     77     6     25     31     105         9     1     0     1     4
1982-83     Montreal Canadiens     NHL     46     2     3     5     24     +5                    
1982-83     Nova Scotia Voyageurs     AHL     24     0     7     7     29                        
1983-84     Montreal Canadiens     NHL     72     4     13     17     45     +26                    
1984-85     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     35     1     1     2     23     -25                    
1984-85     St. Catharines Saints     AHL     28     5     9     14     10                        
1985-86     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     27     0     1     1     29     -8     7     0     2     2     13
1985-86     St. Catharines Saints     AHL     14     7     4     11     11                        
1986-87     Toronto Maple Leafs     NHL     34     3     3     6     37     -9     13     1     0     1     12
1986-87     Newmarket Saints     AHL     32     4     11     15     23                        
1987-88     St. Louis Blues     NHL     9     0     0     0     6     -7                    
1987-88     Philadelphia Flyers     NHL     24     1     2     3     16     +3     2     0     0     0     0
1988-89     Newmarket Saints     AHL     66     10     22     32     39         5     0     0     0     18
1989-90     Newmarket Saints     AHL     47     8     7     15     20                        
1990-91     Newmarket Saints     AHL     36     2     4     6     39                        
Leaf Totals     96    4    5    9    89    -42    20    1    2    3    25
NHL Totals     247     11     23     34     180     -15    22     1     2     3     25

- Signed as a free agent by Montreal, October 4, 1979.
- Traded to Toronto by Montreal with Montreal's 2nd round choice (Darryl Shannon) in 1986 Entry Draft for Dom Campedelli, August 21, 1984.
- Traded to Hartford by Toronto for Dave Semenko, September 8, 1987.

- Claimed by St. Louis from Hartford in Waiver Draft, October 5, 1987.
- Claimed on waivers by Philadelphia from St. Louis, November 26, 1987.
- Traded to Toronto by Philadelphia for Mike Stothers, June 21, 1988.

the HHOF take on Bill:

Throughout Bill Root's career in hockey, he always seemed to play under a cloud of doubt tinged with some vague, amorphous sense that he might not make it wherever he was.

He was coach Hap Emms' 21st choice to join the Niagara Falls Flyers of the OHA in 1976, suggesting that he wasn't completely sure about Root's staying power. During training camp, the young recruit cracked the blade on one of his skates. He told Emms about his problem and the coach directed him to a service station across the street where he could have it welded. Root of course knew that such a repair was impossible, so he skated like a demon through training camp on his broken blade. When he finally made the team, Emms bought him a new set of wheels.

Root skated for three successful seasons in Niagara Falls but was never selected in the NHL draft. The Montreal Canadiens, however, although unsure, signed him as a free agent in 1979. Root was immediately assigned to the Canadiens' AHL affiliate, the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. There he toiled for three seasons with hardly a hope of cracking the Canadiens' all-powerful defensive corps led by Larry Robinson and Rod Langway.

But Root had a number attributes that seemed to be often overlooked during his ins and outs with the NHL. He played like a guy who would do the job for nothing. He was also a very steady, stay-at-home type who always played the man and could move the puck up ice to good effect.

Such attributes, however, weren't enough to earn Root a permanent home with the Habs. He did manage to eke out one full season in 1983-84, but then the arrival of Chris Chelios, Tom Kurvers, and Petr Svoboda made him expendable. As a result, he was dispatched to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the start of the 1984-85 campaign.

In the Blue and White, Root had some initial success while paired with Chris Kotsopoulos. But untimely injuries and occasional trials with the team's management seemed to always undermine any momentum Root could manage to sustain. As a rearguard who always played a sound, physical game, he was baffled to have been sent to the minors by Leafs' coach John Brophy because he wasn't sufficiently aggressive.

In the end, Root languished in the Leafs' organization until 1987 when his rights were bandied around the league, making stops in Hartford, St. Louis, and, finally, Philadelphia where he concluded his NHL career at the end of the 1987-88 season. He was then reacquired by the Leafs, who kept him with the Newmarket Saints of the AHL until his retirement from hockey in 1990-91.


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