Leaf of the Day - Apr 13, 2009 - 1978-79 - Tiger Williams

Apr 13, 2009 - 1978-79 - Tiger Williams

(Note: Mondays, we'll have players from the 1978-79 team, 30 years ago this year. They'll appear in alphabetical order.)


Well, I wish I could say I'd planned it such that I'd run out of '78-79 Leafs the day after the season ended, but that would be a lie.  I didn't even realize it was going to work out until about two weeks ago.

I'd have to think that a Tiger Williams would fit pretty nicely into the type of team Brian Burke wants to build - tough, in your face, really hard to play against and more skill than you'd think.

Years ago, someone gave me the Tiger Williams autobiography.  For whatever reason, the story that sticks out for me is the day Tiger came to MLG as a rookie and met up with Harold Ballard.  Harold had a pirahna in a tank and showed it to him, saying, "This is what I want you to play like."

He did.

Tiger would go up against anyone and anything.  If you look for him on youtube, you get fights against the "Who's who" of fighters from the 1970s and '80s.  At the same time, he was usually potting about 20 goals and often played alongside Sittler and McDonald.  Had he not been in the box for 300-odd minutes every season, he may well have scored more than he did.  Even so - Tiger was good for 35 goals one season, over 20 three other times and 19 twice more.  He could play.

Tiger was one of a number of players who fit this mold in that era - guys who fought all the time, racked up major minutes that few goons today can achieve, yet still played at least a third-line role if not more.  Terry O'Reilly, Willi Plett, even the Hammer himself could all play the game, at least a bit.  This is a kind of player that you really don't see today.  Probert may have been the last of them. A guy like Domi managed to work himself into a more regular role, but really as a third/fourth-line checker.  Nobody worried about Tie as a scorer.

It may just be that the expectations on forwards have changed and that the guys we call "power forwards" today would have fought a lot more had they been playing 30 years ago.  Someone like, say, Backes, Getzlaf or Hartnell would have 265 minutes rather than 140.  (Of course, a lot of those minutes would probably be misconducts, which were handed out like Halloween candy in those days and helped with the totals.  Perhaps we need some kind of conversion factor - 145 minutes in today's game equals 232 25 years ago.)

Even in those days, though, there weren't too many who'd go at it like Tiger.  Between regular season and playoffs, he spent 4421 minutes in the box.  That's just a shade under 74 games.  Tiger spent basically one entire season in the penalty box.  Perhaps a tad excessive. 

Tiger was a huge fan favourite while he was here and a lot of people were heartbroken when he was dealt.  The fact that he brought Vaive and Derlago in return certainly helped ease the sting a bit. 

A little bit, anyway.

And then Wendel came along and nothing else mattered after that....

Tiger's stats:

1970-71  Vernon Lakers   BCJHL                      
1971-72  Swift Current Broncos  WCJHL  68 12 22 34 278
1972-73  Swift Current Broncos  WCJHL  68 44 58 102 266
1973-74  Swift Current Broncos  WCJHL  68 52 56 108 310 12 14 10 24 23
1974-75  Oklahoma City Blazers  CHL  39 16 11 27 202
1974-75  Toronto Maple Leafs NHL  42 10 19 29 187 +4 7 1 3 4 25
1975-76  Toronto Maple Leafs NHL  78 21 19 40 299 -1 10 0 0 0 75
1976-77  Toronto Maple Leafs NHL  77 18 25 43 338 +11 9 3 6 9 29
1977-78  Toronto Maple Leafs NHL  78 19 31 50 351 +6 12 1 2 3 63
1978-79  Toronto Maple Leafs NHL  77 19 20 39 298 -7 6 0 0 0 48
1979-80  Toronto Maple Leafs NHL  55 22 18 40 197 -13          
1979-80  Vancouver Canucks  NHL  23 8 5 13 81 0 3 0 0 0 20
1980-81  Vancouver Canucks  NHL  77 35 27 62 343 +4 3 0 0 0 20
1981-82  Vancouver Canucks  NHL  77 17 21 38 341 -6 17 3 7 10 116
1982-83  Vancouver Canucks  NHL  68 8 13 21 265 -7 4 0 3 3 12
1983-84  Vancouver Canucks  NHL  67 15 16 31 294 -11 4 1 0 1 13
1984-85  Detroit Red Wings  NHL  55 3 8 11 158 -16
1984-85  Adirondack Red Wings  AHL  8 5 2 7 4
1984-85  Los Angeles Kings  NHL  12 4 3 7 43 0 3 0 0 0 4
1985-86  Los Angeles Kings  NHL  72 20 29 49 320 -6
1986-87  Los Angeles Kings  NHL  76 16 18 34 358 -1 5 3 2 5 30
1987-88  Los Angeles Kings  NHL  2 0 0 0 6 +1
1987-88  Hartford Whalers  NHL  26 6 0 6 87 +2
Leaf Totals    407 109 132 241 1670 0 44 5 11 16 240
NHL Totals  962 241 272 513 3966 -40 83 12 23 35 455

Played in NHL All-Star Game (1981)

- Traded to Vancouver by Toronto with Jerry Butler for Rick Vaive and Bill Derlago, February 18, 1980.
- Traded to Detroit by Vancouver for Rob McClanahan, August 8, 1984.
- Traded to Los Angeles by Detroit for future considerations, March 12, 1985.
- Traded to Hartford by Los Angeles for cash, October 15, 1987.
- Played w/ RHI's Vancouver Voodoo in 1993 (1-1-1-2-2).

The HHOF take on Tiger:

While most dominant images of Tiger Williams likely include him sitting in the penalty box, he had an offensive scoring talent which often went overlooked due to his penchant for pugilism.

Williams played for three years with Swift Current of the Western Junior Hockey League. In his first season he scored 12 goals while assisting on 22 others, while compiling a staggering 278 minutes in penalties in 68 games. The next year he spent 12 minutes less time in the penalty box but improved his point production by an incredible 68 points, garnering 102 points on 44 goals and 56 assists. In his final year with Swift Current, Tiger amassed 52 goals and 56 assists for 108 points while spending 310 minutes in the sin bin.

Tiger was chosen 31st overall in the 2nd round of the 1974 NHL entry draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was also a 3rd round selection, 33rd overall, of the Cincinnati Stingers of the WHA, but Tiger's dream was to play in the NHL. He played four full seasons in Toronto and parts of two others, where he became a huge fan favourite. Along with his many entertaining skirmishes with other notable NHL tough guys, Tiger also brought the fans out of their seats, when, after scoring a goal, he would ride his hockey stick down the length of the ice, much to the annoyance of the opposing players. He was also one of the few players Maple Leafs' owner Harold Ballard seemed to like.

When all was said and done in a 14-year NHL career, Tiger was the league's all-time leader in penalty minutes with 3,966. He also collected an additional 455 minutes during the playoffs. To this day Williams will argue he did not deserve half the penalties he was assessed by NHL referees. Then again, there are quite a few who insist he should have been given more!

He averaged nearly 20 goals a year, and had his best year in 1980-81 with the Vancouver Canucks, when he netted 35 goals and 27 assists. That year he represented Vancouver in the mid-season All-Star game. After a little more than four years with the Canucks he moved on to play in 55 games with the Detroit Red Wings, where his penalty minutes continued to dominate the stats sheet, but his offensive production tailed off considerably. Williams had 158 penalty minutes but only three goals and eight assists.

The next stop for Tiger was another West Coast club, this time with the Kings in Los Angeles. He had two reasonably productive years for the Kings, scoring 49 and 34 points in the 1985-86 and 1986-87 campaigns. And, true to form, he continued his long-standing friendship with the penalty box, spending 320 and 358 minutes in the box during those two seasons.

The final NHL destination for Williams was Hartford, where he appeared in 26 games for the Whalers in 1987-88, scoring six goals and 87 penalty minutes. At the age of 34, he found the rigors of everyday NHL life had finally caught up to him, so retired soon thereafter.

Tiger's final NHL statistics are as follows: 962 regular-season games played, 241 goals, 272 assists, 513 points and a record 3,966 minutes in penalties. He appeared in 83 playoff contests, scoring 12 goals and 23 assists.

When asked who he considered some of his more difficult NHL fighting adversaries, Williams responded "all of them." Although he does say players such as Terry O'Reilly deserve the most respect, playing every third shift of every NHL game while also having to handle the rough and tumble side of things. Dave Semenko, the former Edmonton Oilers policeman, is also highly regarded by Williams.

Now that Tiger is out of hockey, he follows many different business interests, primarily in the Vancouver area. He continues to play in NHL old-timers games and remains close friends with many of his former teammates, most notably Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald.


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