Bryan J. Bugsy Watson has had two careers most people just dream of: winning the Stanley Cup while playing in the National Hockey League, and being the owner of a successful restaurant and sports bar. Life is good.
Who would have thought that a kid from the small Ontario, Canadian town of Bancroft (population 1,200) with hockey prowess could even be discovered in the 1950s, let alone play professionally at a time when there were only six pro teams? Watson has lived the dream of millions of hockey playing lads in Canada and the United States; he played hockey professionally for 17 years and even won the 1965 Stanley Cup while playing for the Montreal Canadiens.
One might wonder how this tough, ruggedly handsome hockey star got started. Ice time for Watson goes back as far as he can remember, but certainly from the age of three when he was on the ice skating every Sunday with his family. Actually, I think I spent most of the time on the ice at that age. I fell all the time at first, quipped Watson.
At seven he began playing in local hockey leagues, and a mere 12 years later he was a pro.
Growing up, Watson often won ice skating races at area winter carnivals, but his life-changing break came at the age of 12 when his Bancroft Pee Wee hockey team almost won an Ontario-wide hockey tournament. The tournament was played in Peterborough where the famous Montreal Canadiens had a farm team, the Petes. [Then-Coach] Baldy McKay told my dad to let him know if I ever wanted to entertain the idea of playing hockey for Peterborough, said Watson, remembering those early years. So, I left home at 14 to go to Peterborough and play Junior A hockey. I played for Peterborough and Scotty Bowman, one of the most renowned hockey coaches, was our coach. He made all the difference for me in making it into the pros.
Even playing for the Petes, getting called up to play hockey professionally in the 1950s was a huge deal because there were only six professional teams in the world,” Watson said. Every hockey-playing boy dreamt of playing professionally and winning the Stanley Cup. However, with so few professional hockey teams, the chances were slim that those dreams would be fulfilled.
Watson beat the odds and made it to the ranks of the professional hockey world. The first five years of his career on the ice were spent with the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens are one of the original six professional teams with legendary hockey icons such as John Beliveau among the ranks of Watsons teammates. Watson played for the Canadiens when they won the Stanley Cup in 1965.
However, the next year, he played for the Detroit Red Wings, another iconic hockey team. His ice time with the Red Wings in the 1966 Stanley Cup playoffs earned Watson the nickname Bugsy, given to him by two other legendary Detroit Red Wings: Gordie Howe and Andy Bathgate. Watson was tough and aggressive defending the blue line on defense and was able to shut down top-scoring Bobby Hull of the Chicago Blackhawks during that Stanley Cup playoff series. The name stuck. Bugsy and his take-no-prisoners defense was known throughout the hockey world.
I loved playing hockey and all the teams I played for: the Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings, Oakland Seals, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, said Watson. The players were great. I know I was intense, determined and passionate about playing hockey.
For the last 25 years, Watson and his wife, Lindy, have owned Bugsys Restaurant (formerly known as Armands) with its sports bar, The Penalty Box, on the second floor. When we first opened and decided to have a sports bar, everyone said that it would never work. But, it has, said the still energetic and exceptionally fit Watson. We have a regular following, like the TV bar Cheers, who come in and watch their favorite college or professional teams.
Watson continued, I love what I do now and it’s fun working with Lindy. We have been married 40 years and we are equal partners in this business. We like the independence of owning our own business, although it can be tough to get away to see our daughter Lisa in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and our son, Stevie, and our 10-year old grandson, Isaac, in New Orleans.
Watsons advice to young hockey players today: Follow your dreams. You still have to have the passion, ability, discipline, dedication and desire to be the best. You are going to have to work hard. By all accounts Watson has not stopped working hard and still loves what he does it is just different.
He and his family are a treasured part of Alexandria.