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Carchidi Column: Flyers, Bruins Alumni Game Includes Spry 80-Year-Old

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Joe Watson, Fred Shero, 1974, Philadelphia Flyers
Defenseman Joe "Thundermouth" Watson, now 80, celebrates with Flyers coach Fred Shero after winning the 1974 Stanley Cup. Photo: AP.

Long after their retirement, many former pro athletes hobble up steps. Their idea of exercise is walking the dog, or perhaps strolling around a mall.

Not ex-Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Joe Watson.

Watson still plays hockey. At 80.

A key member of the Flyers’ only two Stanley Cups champions — way back in 1974 and 1975 — Watson will be the oldest player on the ice for Philly in next month’s alumni game against the Boston Bruins at the Wells Fargo Center.

“I certainly wasn’t planning on playing,” a chuckling Watson, who looks 20 years younger than his age, said on Thursday night. “And Brad says, ‘Why don’t you come out and play, and that’ll mean you’ve played in seven decades?’ ”

He was referring to former Flyer Brad Marsh, president of the Philadelphia Flyers extremely active alumni association.

Watson decided he will lace them up for the Friday, Jan. 26 game against Boston. Counting his time in the NHL and playing in alumni games, he will have played in parts of seven decades.

“I never was a fast skater anyway, so what the hell? I’ll stay in neutral most of the time,” Watson cracked.

His 8-year-old skating partner

Watson last skated last year with his eight-year-old grandson, Watson Riley (love the name), a budding young player. They skated at the IceWorks, owned by Watson’s brother, Jimmy, in Aston, Pa.

When he gets on the ice against the Bruins, Joe Watson was asked if he planned to do anything special.

“Just stand up,” he said, followed by one of his uproarious laughs.

He will do some skating with his grandson in the coming weeks to prepare for the game.

The Bruins haven’t announced their roster yet, but Watson is trying to talk the legendary Bobby Orr into playing. They were once Bruins teammates, and Orr was the best man at Watson’s wedding.

“I talked to Orr and he doesn’t think he’s going to make it, but I’m going to give him another call,” Watson said. “He’s in the process of building another house in one of the Carolinas. He sold his house in the Cape and he’s building another one  and has to be around, I guess, to make sure the builders are doing a good job.”

Watson said he hears rumblings that Ray Bourque (almost 63) and 6-foot-9, 250-pund Zdeno Chara (46) may play for Boston.

“I played in the Bruins organization for a few years” in the 1960s, “and I don’t know if any of those guys are coming back,” he said. “I hope they do because I’d like to see some of them. I haven’t seen them for quite a while.”

Tickets starting at $25 are available at FlyersCharities.com.

Alumni game info

  • The game will feature players from every decade of the Flyers, whose franchise started in 1967-68.
  • There will be a reunion of the Flyers’ Crazy Eights Line: Eric Lindros (88), Mark Recchi (8) and Brent Fedyk (18). Lindros and John LeClair will return, so two members of the Legion of Doom will play.
  • Three ex-Flyers who are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame are playing: Mark Howe, Lindros and Recchi.
  • Eight former All-Stars are playing: Howe, Watson, Lindros, Recchi, LeClair, Kimmo Timonen, Patrick Sharp and Scott Hartnell.
  • The players known as the Bruise Brothers will play: Dave Brown and Daryl Stanley. The Bruise Brothers T-shirt was the Flyers’ top-selling merchandise in 1984.
  • The game will reunite some of the players who came back from a 3-0 series deficit and stunned Boston in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs: Mike Richards, Brian Boucher, Hartnell and Timonen.
  • Mike Knuble, Todd Fedoruk, Riley Cote, Marsh, Donald Brashear, Robert Esche, and Dennis Seidenberg are also playing for the Flyers’ alumni.
  • All proceeds from the game will benefit the Flyers Alumni Association and Flyers Charities.

Watson’s book available

Watson, a two-time All-Star who co-founded the Flyers’ alumni association, is busy these days promoting his new book, Thundermouth, written by Bill Meltzer. The book came out earlier this week and is doing well. To order one, email joe@joewatsonofficial.com.

“Joe has a photographic memory and keeps voluminous scrapbooks,” Meltzer said on Friday. “Ask a question, laugh as Joe tells one of hundreds of great stories, and then fact check. … His game recall was right about 95 percent of the time.  It was such a pleasure to write the book with him.”

The ornery and irreverent Watson never takes himself seriously. He has more stories than anyone from the Broad Street Bullies days and beyond, having worked in the organization for 54  years in various capacities.

Here’s hoping he sells a million copies of his book.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called Bullies: A Love Story. Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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