Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Born on this date in 1954, Dave "Tiger" Williams went on to become one of the most feared players in NHL history.
Originally drafted in the second round, 31st overall, by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1974 Amateur Draft. He made his NHL debut on January 7, 1975 and played there six years, racking up penalty minutes by the bushel, as he led the team every season he was in Toronto, regardless of the number of games played. In just 42 games in his rookie season, Williams spent 187 minutes in the penalty box, while contributing 10 goals and 29 points.
Williams would lead the league in penalty minutes in both 1976-77, with 338, and again in 1978-79, with 298. Williams, however, was not an entirely one-dimensional player like many of the enforcers of today, as he hovered around the 20 goal mark every year while with the Maple Leafs and hit a high of 50 points in 1978.
Williams was traded to the Vancouver Canucks during the 1979-80 season, having already scored 22 goals in 55 games in Toronto. He would add another 8 in 23 games after joining the Canucks.
The 1980-81 season saw Williams hit career highs with 35 goals and 62 points despite also serving a league leading 343 minutes in the penalty box, the equivalent of nearly six full games. Assuming 16 minutes of ice time a night, it's actually the equal of spending over 21 full games off the ice! Williams also played in the NHL All-Star Game for the only time in his career that season.
In addition to leading the Canucks with the expected penalty minutes, Williams' 35 also led the Canucks in goals that season. When was the last time that ever happened?
Following that season Williams offensive output would decline for the rest of his career, only reaching 20 goals once more, but his trips to the penalty box would continue unabated. During his four seasons in Vancouver, he would average 310 minutes in penalties while leading the Canucks each season.
Prior to the 1984-85 season, the Canucks would deal Williams to the Detroit Red Wings, where he would play just 55 games before another deal in March that sent him to the Los Angeles Kings for the remainder of the season. Two full seasons in Los Angeles saw him wear a path in the ice to the penalty box with first 320 minutes and then a single season high of 358 minutes while leading the Kings in penalty minutes both seasons.
After just two games with the Kings in 1987-88, he was traded one final time to the Hartford Whalers, where he would play 26 games before calling it a career.
Williams would finish with 962 NHL games played, 241 goals, 272 assists for 513 points and as the all time NHL leader with 3966 career penalty minutes. Additionally, Williams played in 83 playoff games, scoring 12 goals and 23 assists for 35 points plus 455 penalty minutes, an average of 5.5 per game, something not seen in the modern NHL where fighting all but vanishes in the playoffs.
Today's featured jersey is a Mitchell and Ness 1982-83 Vancouver Canucks Tiger Williams jersey. Mitchell and Ness jerseys are made to a high standard, but run quite long when compared to your average CCM or Nike jersey. We're not a fan of them embroidering their logo so prominently on the back of their jerseys, as they have never been a supplier of jerseys to an NHL club.
From the Canucks inception in 1970-71 to 1977-78 the Canucks wore blue and green jerseys, but in 1978, all that came to an abrupt end.
Before the 1978-79 season the Canucks hired a professional psychologist to redesign their uniforms. The old colors were said to be "too bland, too tranquil and did not inspire emotion." The result was the "V" design, suggesting "victory" according to the designer, one of the strangest, yet most unforgettable jerseys to ever see the ice in an NHL contest.
The bright orange was said to "evoke passion and aggression" while the black road jersey was supposed to instill fear in the opposition.
The jerseys featured no main team logo on the front, but instead the giant "V" shape done in bright orange and yellow on a black jersey. The sleeves also featured smaller "V" shapes midway down the arm with a new "Flying Skate" logo for the shoulders.
The "V" shape was not limited to just the jerseys either, as the breezers had giant multi-colored "V's" as well. During the first year these jerseys were worn, they even had "V" shaped stripes on the socks.
The Canucks introduced the jerseys, which none of the players had seen prior to the game, at the season opener in Minnesota. As Stan Smyl said, "I've never been ashamed to wear the Canuck's uniform, but that night none of us wanted to leave the dressing room."
They were met with much derision around the NHL and were often referred to as "those Halloween suits". Vancouver nearly got the last laugh however, as they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1982 before running into the New York Islanders dynasty which was in full stride. Time has settled on the nickname of "The Flying V" for these jerseys.
The basic jersey produced in 1978 remained in use until the 1984-85 season, but with a few adjustments along the way, such as a change in color for the names on the back, relocating the very unconventional sleeve numbers from the wrists to the shoulders and eventually evolving from one color names and numbers to two colors for both, as seen on today's featured jersey.
Some feel that the Canucks have never gotten it right, as the original logo was too simplistic, the Flying V was too hideous, the Flying Skate was too busy and the Orca logo too corporate, as the Canucks were owned by Orca Bay Entertainment when the Orca/Killer Whale logo was adopted.
Maxim magazine, which I only read for the articles, rated the Flying V jerseys as "The Worst Sports Uniform" in any sport.
Despite others often ranking this as one of the top three, if not the worst, jerseys of all time, we are actually fans of the whole concept of trying to design a jersey in an effort to aid your team in victory. It took some bold thinking and a lot of guts for the designer to create this jeresy and then even more for the club to support the concept and stick with it for seven seasons.
We cannot imagine anyone in the NHL being bold enough to risk the large amounts of income clubs rely on from the marketing of jerseys to try something so far outside the norm in the marketing driven world of the modern NHL.
The "Flying V" jerseys are a curiosity, as no other team followed them down the same path, leaving the "Flying V" as a truly unique chapter in NHL history.
Today's rock 'em, sock 'em highlights begin with Tiger Williams taking on Dave Schultz of the Flyers. Not the greatest fight of all time, but look at show short the glass is!
Here is a profile of Williams, which includes his infamous goal celebration of riding his stick after scoring.
Straight out of the movie Slap Shot, Williams gets into a fight with the Boston Bruins Stan Jonathan, while still sitting on the bench!
We are at a loss for words to describe this feature on Williams from the CBC in 1979. It actually have us a headache, it was that creepy. You've been warned.