Former National Hockey League defender Brian “Bagsy” Watson, who played for Scotty Bowman with Doug Harvey and coach Wayne Gretzky during his time in hockey, has died. He was 78 years old.
A Washington Capitals spokesperson said Friday that Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns the club, learned of his death Thursday from a member of the Watson family. A Pittsburgh Penguins spokeswoman said the team was informed that Watson died at his home in St. Michaels, Maryland. The cause of death was not disclosed.
A native of Bancroft, Ontario, Watson played 1,009 NHL games for Montreal, Detroit, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Washington from 1963-1978 before ending his career on the ice with Cincinnati in the World Hockey League in 1979.
Watson played junior hockey under Bowman – who holds the record for the most Stanley Cup titles – for Peterborough. He was also paired with Hall of Famer Harvey with the Quebec Aces in the American Hockey League during his second pro season, and later coached young Gretzky.
The Pittsburgh Penguins Alumni Association described Watson as a fan favorite known for his feisty play. Listed at 5 feet 9 and 175 pounds, Watson led the league with a 215-minute penalty during the 1971-72 season during the hockey era of scrimmage and fights.
Watson was the Edmonton Oilers’ first coach for the inaugural NHL season in 1980 after transferring from WHA. General Manager Glen Sather replaced Watson behind the bench after the team started 4-9-5.
Although he played only 155 of 877 regular season games for the capitals, Watson is well known in the Washington area. He and his wife, Lindy, opened a pizzeria in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1983 and named it Bugsy in 1998 and sold it in 2013.