He refers to himself as the other famous “Tiger” and much like the Tiger who golfs, Weyburn-born Dave Williams has also had his fair share of press over the years. Williams, now 63, is a hockey icon, especially to many who grew up in a generation where fighting was a major intimidating part of the game. Born on a farm, he understood working hard for everything he had. The Williams are also hockey royalty in these parts where his late brother Len was a coach and teacher at Weyburn Comprehensive School, and played a major role in the countless championship banners in the school gym.
Over a 13-year career, Williams amassed the most penalty minutes (3,966) — a record he still holds today. He also showed a scoring touch with 241 goals and 272 assists, many during his years with Toronto Maple Leafs and playing alongside greats such as Darryl Sittler and Lanny McDonald. He also played for the Vancouver Canucks, enjoying career highs of 35 goals in one season, and ending his career with the LA Kings, Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers.
In addition to Tiger, 2016 Miss Universe Canada Siera Bearchell of Moose Jaw and “Voice of the Riders” Rod Pedersen all attended the second Sports Celebrity supper and auction in Assiniboia, held on Saturday.
For those who have not had the opportunity to see Williams speak, it is a treat to see his “shoot from the hip, take no prisoners” approach. He is both refreshing and quite candid about his career and opinions about hockey. Sharing thoughts on topics such as NHL players going to the Olympics (it’s all about the money for the owners) and the U.S. Women Hockey Team and their demand for equal rights (they should be treated like the men’s team), Williams also questioned why Canada does not have high school hockey like in the United States.
“We have volleyball, basketball, and other team sports, but why not have hockey in the high school?”
He went on to share some statistics about hockey players, and noted for the first time more hockey players in the NHL were not Canadian-born, and the country with the largest increase was the United States, largely due to high school hockey. Williams also had some interesting stats about how many hockey players have actually suited up for at least one game in the NHL over the past 100 years. While the crowd was guessing in the tens of thousands, many were surprised to hear the number was only 5,700, with 10 per cent of those Saskatchewan-born.
“If parents think their kids are going to make it to the NHL, they should look again at the odds,” Williams added and as advice to parents, said, “Young hockey players have to play for themselves and have fun. Parents should not be glued to every practice, every shift on the ice. If they don’t want to play, don’t push them. Encourage them in what interests them.”
Williams also talked about his storied career during a time when hockey was more like the Wild West. “I had run-ins with Dave ‘the Hammer’ Schultz. But one of the toughest to play against was Terry O’Reilly of the Boston Bruins. But I have respect for him as well as one of the best — Dave Semenko.”
Asked about whether he shared a beer recently in Moose Jaw at NHL Hometown Hockey with Hammer, Williams said he would have, but Schultz didn’t seem too keen. Williams went on to share a funny story about a flight both of them took where they happened to sit next to each other.
“He was in the window seat and I was in the aisle, so no one was between us. I had taken off my cowboy boots and set them on the vacant seat between us. The Hammer was chewing a wad of tobacco and calmly would lean over and spit into my boots. After a couple of times, I was getting pretty heated. Then he leaned over to me and said, ‘Tiger, get me a Pepsi and a glass of ice.’ So I got up and brought him back his drink and he downed it quickly. Afterwards we were getting our luggage, and I went up to Hammer and said, ‘You know we should stop this childish behavior between us.’ He asked what did I mean. I said. ‘While with you spitting in my boots and me pissing in your drink, it ain’t getting us nowhere.’ Needless to say, Schultz was not happy.”
Going back to his junior career with Swift Current Broncos, even as a young hockey player Williams never shied away from controversy and being around trouble. An infamous game against the Regina Pats saw him and teammates storm into the stands during a game and Williams belting a fan with his stick. Williams had confirmed the fan was throwing peppermints on the ice at him. After joining the NHL, Williams joked about his many trips to Montreal for disciplinary hearings. “I probably would have hit 1,000 games if not for all that time in a plane.”
Over a career of 962 games, Williams played with energy and enthusiasm. He was also unpredictable and many remembered his famous “stick-riding” celebration after a goal on his first visit back to Toronto with the Vancouver Canucks. “I’m not sure quite why I did that. But it was the only time.” During the evening in Assiniboia, Williams also took to the stage to “auction” off a Toronto Maple Leaf signed jersey. Always a showman, he worked the crowd up to a bid of $6,500.
Williams has been married for 43 years and lives in Swift Current. He loves to travel and speak at events such as this. As for revisiting his hockey career, he had a chance a number of years ago to play senior hockey with a team out of Herbert. “They wanted Uncle Tiger to wear a visor, and I don’t play hockey with no visor.”