Bill Lochead

Bill Lochead was a fine junior player, scoring 140 goals and 278 points in only 158 games for the Oshawa Generals. He was chosen to the second OHA All-Star team in 1973 and the first in 1974. In 1974 he was awarded the Red Tilson Award as the MVP in his last season of junior hockey.

His fine junior career of course attracted a lot of attention from the NHL scouts. Bill was eventually drafted by the Detroit Red Wings with their 1st round draft choice, 9th overall in 1974. He had a solid rookie season in the NHL 1974-75, scoring 16 goals (28 points) in 65 games and was selected as the team rookie-of-the-year by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.

But the following season Bill only scored 9 goals (20 points) in 53 games. He also played 24 games in the minors, playing for New Haven (AHL) where he scored 30 points (17 goals + 13 assists). Detroit´s management was impatiently waiting for Bill to blossom, yet he was showing no signs of coming around, scoring 16 goals and 14 assists in 61 games for Detroit during the 1976-77 season.

In 1977-78 Bill showed flashes of his potential when he scored 20 goals and added 16 assists in 77 games for Detroit. During the 1977-78 season Bill's coach Bobby Kromm described his style like this: "Bill depends on skating and forechecking in the opponent's end. He tries to force their defense to cough up the puck and make mistakes. He's a quick, hard skater, and so far, he's been very effective."

He also went on to score his most important goal in a Red Wings uniform in the playoffs that season. For one night on April 13, 1978 he was the king of Hockeytown before there was such a kingdom. Bill's two third-period goals against Atlanta in the playoffs, including the winner with 1:34 left, made the Wings the toast of the city. The goal that brought Red Wings fans to their feet and the Atlanta Flames to their knees got etched into the Olympia Stadium lore until this day. Bill's goal clinched the Wings first playoff series in 12 years.

The goal was Detroit's most electrifying playoff goal in a long time and belonged to an underachieving first-round draft pick whose tiptoe through the Flames was a shining moment in a decade of darkness. "For me, it was the best time I had in professional hockey," Bill said.

The 1977-78 Detroit team was coming off the franchise's worst season to that point (16-55-9), when they failed to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year. But first-year coach Bobby Kromm and general manager Ted Lindsay assembled an electrifying blend of players who helped the Wings double their victory total with a 32-34-14 record. Among the players on the team was chippy team captain Dennis Hextall, tough defenseman Terry Harper, fast forward Nick Libett, hustling wing Dennis Polonich, rookie Dale McCourt, Paul Woods, hard shooting defenseman Reed Larson, goalie Jim Rutherford, big winger Vaclav Nedomansky and 20 goal scorer Bill Lochead.

A strong second half propelled the Wings to a 78-point season, good for second place in the Norris Division behind Montreal and a first-round playoff date with Atlanta. The best-of-three preliminary series pitted the Wings against the Flames, perennial playoff chokers. Atlanta was a big, physical team that featured Tom Lysiak, Willi Plett and goaltender Dan Bouchard.

In Game 1 at the Omni, Detroit won, 5-3, after having scored three power-play goals. Two nights later, a Thursday, an Olympia-record crowd of 16,671 crammed into the old red barn, anticipating Detroit's first series victory since 1966. All the fervor that had evaporated from the glory years in the 1950s and '60s was back. After a scoreless first period, the teams traded second-period goals from Lysiak and Vaclav Nedomansky. Lochead scored at 8:58 of the third to put the Wings up for the first time, 2-1. Five minutes later, Atlanta tied it on Bobby Lalonde's unassisted goal.

With less than two minutes left, the Lochead-McCourt-Woods line was ready to return to the bench. A TV time-out revived them for one more face-off. On his off-wing, the right-handed Lochead took a pass from Woods at his blue line and dashed up the left boards.

"I remember coming up on Dick Redmond and just missing his hip check at the blue line," Bill said. "Bouchard came out trying to take away the shot. Instead of going to the net, I dragged the puck into my feet as if going behind the net. At that point, I was on the goal line, and Bouchard was out of position, but I'm really flying now." As he continued around the net, Bill kicked the puck toward the crease and -- while standing behind the goal -- reached over the crossbar and tucked it into the net with a one-handed flick of the wrist. With 94 seconds left, the Wings' bench and the Olympia throng exploded in an ice-littering celebration that halted play for five minutes.

"I think Bouchard's jock was still in the rafters when they tore the building down," Dennis Hextall joked 20 years later.

"It amazes me after all these years and all the nice goals that have been scored, that goal still stands out in the minds of a lot of people,"

Bill said "It's nice to have one game where things went as they should have gone as a No. 1 pick."

It was Detroit's last playoff victory at Olympia. The Wings played Montreal in the quarterfinals. Although they won one of the first two games at the Forum, the Canadiens swept the final three games by a combined 16-4 en route to a third consecutive Stanley Cup.

Bill,the speedy winger failed to live up to the high expectations that came with him as the team's top draft choice in 1974 also failed in training camp the following fall. Bill suffered a knee injury and was out several months. He was claimed off waivers by Colorado and traded to the New York Rangers after the season.

Bill retired from the NHL after the '79-80 season and then headed out for Europe where he stared for almost a decade. Bill played for German teams Bad Nauheim, Kaufbeuren, Mannheim and Swiss team Chur before ending his career in Austria and WEV Wien in 1986-87. Bill began coaching in Germany in 1991 after a four-year hiatus in the private sector in London, Ontario. Today he lives in Germany. He's coached ECD Iserlohn, Frankfurt Lions, Kassel Huskies of the German Elite League.


Anonymous,  8:54 PM  

great job

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