OHL Mourns the Loss of Bryan ‘Bugsy’ Watson


The OHL is saddened by the loss of alumnus and former long-time NHL defenceman Bryan ‘Bugsy’ Watson who passed away on July 8 in St. Michael’s, Maryland at the age of 78.

Hailing from Bancroft, Ont., Watson played under Scotty Bowman for the Peterborough Petes from 1960-63 before going on to play in 877 career NHL contests between 1963-79. He’d become one of the first coaches in Edmonton Oilers history, coaching a 19-year-old Wayne Gretzky in a stint that lasted just 18 games.

Watson was a gritty defender, known for his aggressive play despite standing just 5-foot-9 and 175Ibs. He broke in with a Canadiens team that featured the likes of Henri Richard and Jean Béliveau that went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1965. A series of trades took Watson to several different cities throughout his career including Detroit, Montreal again, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, back to Detroit, Washington, and several minor league teams.

Finishing his NHL career with the Washington Capitals in 1979, Watson stuck around the DC area, and opened up a bar in 1983 – ‘The Penalty Box’ – in Alexandria, Virginia that he owned until 2013. The name was in homage to Watson’s career spent frequently in the penalty box as he amassed 2,212 career penalty minutes.

Watson is survived by his wife Lindy of 53 years, their two children Stephen and Lisa, as well as a brother, sister and two grandsons.

For more on the life and career of Bryan ‘Bugsy’ Watson, visit

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