September 20, 2017

Legends of Team Canada: Tim Watters

Though he played in 2 Olympics and well over 700 NHL games, Tim "Muddy" Watters quietly had a nice career by playing a solid though unspectacular role from 1981 through 1995 with the Winnipeg Jets and Los Angeles Kings - two teams that didn't enjoy much success or fanfare in those days.

Just 5'11 and 185 lbs, Watters learned to play an intelligent game in the National Hockey League. He learned to be in perfect position and angled shooters out of harm's way, as there was little chance he could out muscle many of the incoming attackers. He read the oncoming rushes very well, and thanklessly cut off passing lanes and blocked shots.

Physically he learned to tie up players sticks and was one of the few modern players to master the hip check.

And though his quiet style hid it, he had a decent package of skills. He was a very good skater. And he could carry the puck out of his own zone or headman a breakout pass equally well. However his defensive posturing meant he rarely attempted much in the offensive zone.

Born in Kamloops BC, Watters played with the hometown Blazers for one year before bolting major junior hockey in Canada for NCAA college hockey with Michigan Tech in 1977. He played there for three years, helping the Huskies win a NCAA championship in 1981.

His tenure with the Huskies was interrupted during the 1979-80 season when he left school to play with the Canadian National Team. Making that team all but assured Watters a chance to represent his country at the 1980 Olympics, which he did - scoring 2 points in 6 games.

After graduating from college Watters turned pro in 1981 with the Jets, who drafted him back in 1979. Over the next 6 years the likable Watters became a mainstay on the Jets blue line.

During the 1987-88 season Watters became a bit of a spare part in Winnipeg. The Jets released him to play with the Canadian Olympic team during the 1988 Calgary Olympics, another definite highlight of Watters career. Randy Gregg and Ken Berry were 1980 alum back for another Olympics.

"It was a great year for me in 1980 and, without it, I would never have had the confidence to reach the NHL," he added. "Now I want to be part of the puzzle Dave King's putting together."

"This team is much better prepared than 1980, and that's not a knock at the '80 coaching staff. It's just that there's a much larger support staff this time and the whole program seems so well organized."

Thought Watters, like fellow NHL loaners was parachuted in, he felt welcomed immediately.

"I feel very, very comfortable with this team," he added. "There's a little more skating and puck control involved here, which makes this much different from the Canada Cup (played) in smaller rinks."

"There's a definite transition change from the NHL to this," Watters said. "I'll have to use my head, the experience, to make the adjustment to the bigger ice surface."

Unfortunately for Watters and all of Team Canada, a second chance at the Olympics did not result in a podium finish. When asked what his Olympic highlights were Watters is quick to mention both opening cermonies.

After that season, feeling that his best hockey was behind him, the Jets let Watters go as a free agent. He signed quickly with the Los Angeles Kings. Tim enjoyed 2 solid years with Wayne Gretzky's Kings. By 1990 Tim became a spare part in Los Angeles too. But he continued to play for parts of 5 more years, acting almost as an on-ice coach, helping the Kings younger defensemen along. He also spent some time in the minor leagues, doing a similar job.

Watter's contributions to his team were usually of the unnoticeable and thankless variety. It is because of players like that that teams win. So you can be rest assured that Watters coaches and teammates noticed his work, and thanked him on a nightly basis.

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