Former Leaf Billy Harris died Thursday morning in a Toronto hospital after a six-year battle with leukemia. Harris played on three Stanley Cup winning teams with Toronto from 1962 to 1964 before Punch Imlach traded him to Detroit.
Harris, who was 66 at the time of his passing, was very popular with the fans and started coaching junior and college hockey after his playing days were over. Current Leafs coach Pat Quinn remembers his first NHL game. He was with Toronto and faced Harris who was playing with Pittsburgh at the time. Harris gave Quinn a lasting memory of that game.
"He came down and I thought that I was pretty much going to put him through the boards and he gave me that old inside-out move," said Quinn. "He walked in and scored the goal so I remember that one very vividly. I remember the words that were parted into my ears at close range."
Quinn also remembers the class in which Harris conducted himself.
"Billy was always a guy who had time for people," he said. "I think I remember that most about him. He was a wonderful guy. He was humble, nice and a heck of a player." Harris scored 134 goals and 229 assists in 769 NHL games with Toronto, Detroit, Oakland and Pittsburgh during a 14-year NHL career from 1956-69.
He is survived by his companion Tonie Simpson and his children, Billy Jr., Patti, Bob and Wendy.