For the 1972-73 season under the guidance of new Gophers head coach Herb Brooks, Butters was named as captain of Minnesota. He increased his games played to 33 and his goal total to 3 as well as boosting his penalty minutes to 110.
Undrafted, Butters turned professional for the 1973-74 season with the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League where he saw action in 71 games, where he set career highs with 7 goals, 18 assists and 25 points. He also spent 174 minutes in the penalty box. Butters also added 2 goals and 6 assists in 10 playoff games as Oklahoma City made it to the league finals.
He began the 1974-75 season with the Blazers, but after amassing a whopping 192 penalty minutes in just 32 games, Butters returned to familiar territory in St. Paul when he signed with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association, a team which always seemed to have room for more toughness.
With the Fighting Saints, Butters played in 24 games while adding 58 penalty minutes to his season total while chipping in 2 goals and 4 points. He also added a goal in 12 playoff games for Minnesota while collecting another 21 penalty minutes.
He played in 59 games with the Fighting Saints in 1975-76 with 15 assists and 170 penalty minutes until the franchise folded in late February. Butters then finished the season with the rival Houston Aeros, no doubt becoming teammates with some of his former fight adversaries. Butters played in 14 regular season games for Houston plus an additional 17 playoff games as the Aeros made it to the Avco Cup Finals.
Bizarrely, Butters 1976-77 season was a nearly identical repeat of the previous season, as the Cleveland Crusaders franchise relocated to St. Paul and adopted the Minnesota Fighting Saints name and identity, only swapping the team's blue and yellow colors for red and yellow. Butters rights were traded by the Birmingham Bulls to Minnesota where he led the team with 133 penalty minutes, more than double that of his nearest teammate, Gord Gallant's 64. But once again, this time after just 42 games, the new Fighting Saints folded mid-season just like their predecessors.
Butters found a new home with the Edmonton Oilers, but after a mere 7 games, he and former Fighting Saints teammate Mike Antonovich were dealt to the New England Whalers for the remainder of the tumultuous 1976-77 season. While with the Whalers, Butters scored 9 points in 26 games and was whistled for 65 penalty minutes.
He began the 1977-78 season with New England and played in 45 games. He had a goal and 13 assists to go with his 69 penalty minutes before once again returning to his home state of Minnesota, only this time with the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL, who signed him as a free agent after clearing WHA waivers.
Butters played 23 games to finish the 1977-78 season. He was back with the North Stars for the 1978-79 season, playing in 49 games and scoring 4 assists as well as 47 penalty minutes. He also was sent to Minnesota's CHL affiliate, the Oklahoma City Stars, coincidentally located where his pro career began after college.
After playing 14 games to finish the 1978-79 season, Butters played one final season with Oklahoma City in 1979-80 where he played in 73 games, scoring 3 goals and 11 points as well as his customary 134 penalty minutes to close out his career. By spending the entire season with Oklahoma City, it would be the first time since his first pro season he would spend the entire year with the same club, thanks in large part to the instability of the WHA.
He would finish his career with over 100 fights and over 240 stitches in his face as he totaled 607 penalty minutes in 289 games, leaving behind a litany or stories about his off ice exploits and legendary tales of challenging other teams, which sometimes led to fights in the other team's bench or inside penalty boxes!
Following his playing days, Butters would be an assistant coach for the University of Minnesota from 1985 to 1995 and later the University of Wisconsin from 2010 to 2012 and is now heavily involved in Hockey Ministries International.
Today's featured jersey is a 1974-75 Minnesota Fighting Saints Bill Butters jersey as worn by the original incarnation of the Fighting Saints. After beginning their inaugural season with jerseys crested with a stylized letter "S", the Fighting Saints introduced the Little Saint logo when their new home, the St. Paul Civic Center was completed in January of 1973. They would continue to wear the same style until the franchise folded in 1976.
The new Fighting Saints swapped out the original club's blue for red, but otherwise maintained the same identity for their brief 42 game run in the WHA before they too folded mid-season.