For the 1968-69 season, Deadmarsh played 47 games for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Canada Junior Hockey League, scoring 189 goals and 42 points while being whistled for 130 penalty minutes. He made his case as a pro prospect the following season with the Wheat Kings when, in 54 games, he essentially doubled his goal production to 37 while adding 33 assists for 70 points while spending a league leading 301 minutes in the penalty box, showing the toughness desired by the NHL.
This led to Deadmarsh being drafted with the first pick in the second round, 15th overall, by the expansion Buffalo Sabres in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft.
Deadmarsh made his NHL debut during the first ever Sabres game on October 10, 1970 and fought Lowell MacDonald. He eventually played in 10 games for Buffalo that season but without scoring a point,. He was assigned to the Salt Lake Golden Eagle for the Western Hockey League for the majority of the 1970-71 season, playing in 59 games, scoring 11 times while assisting on nine others in addition to serving 128 minutes in penalties.
Unable to crack the Sabres lineup for the 1971-72 season, he spent the majority of his time with the Cincinnati Swords of the American Hockey League, finishing third in scoring with a team leading 34 goals and 61 points. He did play another dozen games with the Sabres, which included scoring his first NHL goal.
Deadmarsh split the 1972-73 season between Cincinnati (12 games and 11 points) and the Sabres, where he played in 34 games with a goal and an assist, before being traded to the expansion Atlanta Flames. While with Atlanta, he played in 19 games, scoring once.
His 1973-74 season was curtailed by a broken ankle in early January, which forced him to miss nearly two months. He was able to play in 42 games for the Flames, scoring 6 goals, double his previous NHL total of 3 goals in 75 games spread out over three seasons. He did make his NHL postseason debut with 4 games with 17 penalty minutes.
As often seems to be the case, some players are destined for championship after championship by being fortunate enough to find themselves as a part of a dynasty with the likes of the Montreal Canadiens or New York Islanders, while others seem condemned to spend their entire career starting over at the bottom again and again. Such was the case for Deadmarsh, as he was selected by the upstart Kansas City Scouts, who claimed him from the Flames during the 1974 Expansion Draft.
Deadmarsh, named as an alternate captain by Kansas City, saw action in 20 games for the Scouts in 1974-75, scoring 3 goals and 5 points before he became the first player ever sold from an NHL team to a WHA team. He actually set the deal in motion himself, when he declared his desire to play in the WHA, and signed a contract with the Vancouver Blazers in his home province of British Columbia, effective for the 1975-76 season despite still being under contract to Kansas City for the 1974-75 season!
Deadmarsh tried to force the Scouts to release him by not reporting to training camp and was suspended and fined for each day he refused to report by Kansas City. He quickly reported to the Scouts but the situation was uncomfortable for everyone, and, afraid to lose Deadmarsh at the end of the year without any compensation, Scouts general manager Sid Abel decided to sell him for $30,000, the NHL waiver price.
His WHA debut came on November 29, 1974 in a 5-1 win at home over the New England Whalers. In all, Deadmarsh played 38 games for the troubled Blazers franchise, scoring 7 goals and 15 points.
The Blazers franchise had originally been intended to play in Florida as the Miami Screaming Eagles for the inaugural 1972-73 season, but when that plan failed to materialize, the team instead found a home in Philadelphia as the Blazers. The franchise got off to a disastrous start when the team's first home game when the late arriving(!) Zamboni drove onto the ice, which promptly cracked under its weight, forcing the game to be cancelled! Star signing Derek Sanderson, signed to a $2.6 million, five year contract, lasted just eight games before being bought out for $1 million and goaltender Bernie Parent left the team in a financial dispute after the team's first playoff game. In the end, the franchise was sold after just one season and the new owners moved the club to Vancouver for the 1973-74 season.
During their second season in Vancouver, Deadmarsh joined the club, but the Blazers were unable to compete with the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL, with whom they shared the Pacific Coliseum and the team was moved again, for the third time in three seasons (counting the change in plans from Miami to Philadelphia) and were renamed the Calgary Cowboys.
Deadmarsh moved with the team for the 1975-76 season and promptly set major league career highs games played, goals, assists, points and penalty minutes. His 26 goals and 28 assists for 54 points were good for fourth on the Cowboys while his 196 penalty minutes led the team. He also played in the only 8 playoff games of his WHA career, getting credit for a lone assist.
Seemingly having found a home with Calgary after his solid 1975-76 season, Deadmarsh was traded in September of 1976 to the second incarnation of the Minnesota Fighting Saints, which was the relocated Cleveland Crusaders. Deadmarsh played 35 games for the Fighting Saints, scoring 9 goals and 13 assists before another pair of trades in January of 1977 sent him from Minnesota back to Calgary!
Deadmarsh wasn't with the Fighting Saints long enough to get a photo of him in a jersey, and was instead shown in an airbrushed Calgary jersey
The first trade on January 9th which was supposed to send Deadmarsh back to the Cowboys was cancelled when Rich Lemieux refused to report to Minnesota. A second deal was then worked out, which sent Deadmarsh back to Calgary along with John Arbour in exchange for Danny Gruen and some much needed cash, as the Fighting Saints would fold on January 14th shortly after the deal that saw Deadmarsh escape the doomed Fighting Saints.
Back with the Cowboys, Deadmarsh played in 38 games with 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points. Despite all the unrest, he totaled a combined 22 goals and 43 points during the 1976-77 season.
Life in the WHA was not easy for those not lucky enough to be with the Quebec Nordiques, Edmonton Oilers, New England Whalers or Winnipeg Jets, as the 12 other total franchises played in 22 different locations, and that's not counting the four times proposed teams never took to the ice before relocating!
The Cowboys franchise was a prime example of the unrest which plagued the WHA, and with team drawing less than 4,500 a game in a puny 6,500 seat arena, there was no hope that Calgary would be included in any move to the NHL without a new arena. When the NHL voted down any merger plans for 1977, and with the team selling just 2,000 season tickets for the 1977-78 season, ownership folded the franchise in August of 1977.
Deadmarsh then signed with Edmonton as a free agent for the 1977-78 season, but any hoped for stability for the well traveled winger were dashed when he was traded to the Cincinnati Stingers after 20 games, one goal and 4 points with the Oilers. He finished the season and his career with 45 games with the Stingers, scoring 7 goals and 17 assists.
Deadmarsh retired with 137 NHL games played, scoring 12 goals and 5 assists for 17 points in five seasons, while in the WHA, he saw action in 255 games with 63 goals and 66 assists for 129 points over four seasons.
While some players in the NHL spend their entire careers with one team, with a some even winning multiple championships, there are others who forge careers under trying circumstances, yet persevere regardless of the situation. Deadmarsh is a prime example, as he would end up playing for three NHL expansion clubs and five WHA clubs, who were nearly all broke, either moving or folding out from under him over the course of his career.
Today's featured jersey is a 1975-76 Calgary Cowboys Butch Deadmarsh jersey as worn during his finest season as a professional when he scored 26 goals and 54 points in 79 games, more than twice as many goals and three times the points than he scored in five NHL seasons!
The Cowboys wore jerseys with lace-up collars for 1975-76, changing to jerseys with identical striping for 1976-77, only now with a v-neck collar.