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Alumni Reunion: Bill Lochead

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Bill Lochead (23) scores the series-clinching goal against the Flames with defenseman Pat Ribble (3) trying to catch the speedy Red Wings' forward.

A former first-round draft pick, Bill Lochead didn’t have a very memorable NHL career. In fact, he averaged 11 goals and 10 assists in 55 games spread out over six seasons.

However, just like a few other Detroit athletes of his time – like Pistons forward Marvin (Bad News) Barnes, Tigers designated hitter Champ Summers and Lions running back Lawrence (Baby Bull) Gaines – Lochead’s star took off quickly before eventually burning out.

Lochead played on a forward line with Dale McCourt and Paul Woods in 1978 and helped lift the Red Wings over the Atlanta Flames in a best-of-three first round Stanley Cup playoffs series. Defeating the favored Flames was monumental for a franchise that hadn’t posted a playoff series win in 12 years. And it was in the series that Lochead became a folk hero, scoring two goals in the deciding 3-2 win at Olympia Stadium. His series-winning goal is still remembered by many Wings fans.

Lochead, who is a successful players agent in Frankfort, Germany, recently granted an exclusive interview. Here is what he said about his teammates, the 1978 playoffs and living in Drayton Plains.

QUESTION: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Red Wings teammates? If so, who?
“I do not have any regular contact with any specific players, mainly because I have been in Europe since 1980 and when I am home to visit, the time is short and this limits my time for visiting friends and family. However, I have talked with Paul Woods over the phone a few times lately, and we have tried to meet-up in Ontario where we have summer cottages not too far from each other. Incidentally, over the last couple of years I have had the pleasure of meeting up with NHL referee Kerry Fraser a few times both in the States and over here in Europe. We played on a line together in Jr. B in Sarnia, and it is always fun reminiscing about the old days.”

Q: Which of the current Red Wings is your favorite? And why?
“I really like the way Pavel Datsyuk plays the game. He is so highly skilled and I am amazed at how he can execute some of these skills, such as his foot work with the puck, at his top end speed.”

Q: What was your favorite memory as a Red Wing?
LOCHEAD: “Defeating Atlanta in the ’77-78 playoffs and then playing Montreal in the next round. Atlanta because they were a Stanley Cup favorite going into the playoffs, and Montreal because they were in the midst of their four straight Cups. Added into this mix, was the thrill of scoring the series winner against Atlanta.”

Q: Which of the guys you played with was the toughest?
“We had a few very tough players such as Dennis Hextall, Dan Maloney, Dennis Polonich and Bugsy Watson. This led to a few bench-clearing brawls with Philly, Toronto and Boston. Of course these brawls have been eliminated from today’s game through the “third man in” rule, and players being penalized for leaving their respective benches.”

Q: Who was the funniest?
“Bugsy Watson always kept the guys on their toes with his jokes and high-jinx.”

Q: Who had the biggest heart?
“Again, Bugsy Watson. He was always there for his teammates on and off the ice, and he has done a lot of work for the Special Olympics, which were just getting started back in the 70s.”

Q: What was your favorite restaurant in metro Detroit?
LOCHEAD: “I can not remember the name, but there was an excellent steak house not too far from my house in Drayton Plains; it was next to the Oakland County Airport. Maybe some of the fans from that era can remember the name of it.”

Q: How has the NHL changed since you played?
LOCHEAD: “The skills are at a much higher level. Players are willing to experiment in a game with some fantastic tricks that no one has ever seen before. The “butterfly” goaltending style of today has entirely changed the way a player must shoot and deke in order to score. In the ’70s we used to shoot low to the left or right corner of the net. Today a player has to be able to pick the upper right or left corner of the net over the goalies shoulders. The players are bigger and better protected, but due to all this protection, I believe the players have lost the respect for one another. Head shots were nonexistent back in the ’70s and ’80s.”

Q: Toughest team (other than the Red Wings) when you played?
LOCHEAD: “It depends on how you define toughness. I would definitely say the Canadiens during their dynasty were the toughest team, because they could play the game any way the opposition wanted to; and play that specific style better than the opposing team. They were a highly skilled team with speed and they snuffed out the Broad Street Bullies from Philadelphia and helped put an end to the goon era nonsense.”

Q: Who did you sit next to in the dressing room?
LOCHEAD: “Jim Rutherford was to my left the entire time I was in Detroit and to my right was the table for different kinds of tape, etcetera. To the right of that table I believe was Danny Grant for a few seasons until he was traded to L.A. early in the ’77-78 season.”

Q: What do you love most about the game?
LOCHEAD: “I really love the speed, action, and creativity of the game.”

Q: Who had the greatest influence on your career?
LOCHEAD: “I would say my family in general. My parents were very supportive and my dad had the rink made in the front yard every winter and was team manager of a couple of my teams. My brothers, Pete and Jim, were always pushing our skills to the next level through the fun times on the rink and at the local arena in Forest, Ontario.”

Q: What advice would you give to kids playing today?
LOCHEAD: “Kids should just go out and have fun playing the game. However, their coaches have the responsibility to keep the fun in the game for the players. If the game leads to some opportunities later on, then that is a great bonus for them. It is also very important for the kids to have a well-rounded childhood by participating in other sports, and to develop themselves academically.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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