Billy Dea

Billy is mostly remembered for his "iron man" status.

He didn't miss a single game in the AHL between 1958 and 1967. He played almost 700 straight games in the AHL for the Buffalo Bisons. He became the all-time ironman on Christmas night 1965 in Cleveland when he appeared in his 526th consecutive regular season game. Oddly enough, the man who's mark Billy was erasing played with Cleveland that night. His name was Bill Needham, a defenseman who had previously played 525 straight games.

Billy never saw himself as an ironman although he admitted that it would take something special for him to miss a game.

"I'm no hero. I'm not the type who would go out and play with an injury just to set a record, although I will say it would take more to keep me out of the lineup than ordinary."

Although his penalty minute totals do not suggest it (just 44 minutes in 397 career NHL games), Dea was a very robust player. He was nicknamed "Kayo" and "Hard Rock" for good reason. The Edmonton born Dea was commonly called a "honest" hockey player, which was a great compliment for the pint-sized player. He stood just 5'8" and weighed 175lbs.

After a solid junior career with Lethbridge which saw him score 207 points, including 123 goals, in 142 games, Dea went on to a three game tryout with the Saskatoon Quakers in the WHL.

He played very well and was soon signed by the NY Rangers. Billy debuted for the Rangers during the 1953-54 season and played 14 games. He then played two seasons in Vancouver (WHL) but battled pneumonia for over two months and never regained his strength. The Rangers dealt him to the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit sent him to Edmonton (WHL) where Billy had a fine season in 1955-56, scoring 71 points in 70 games. The next season Billy cracked the Detroit lineup and became a regular in the NHL for the first time, spending some time on Gordie Howe's left wing. He scored a respectable 15 goals and 30 points.

In the midst of the 1957-58 season Billy was traded to Chicago in a eight player deal and finished the season in Chicago.

For the next nine seasons Billy played in the AHL for the Buffalo Bisons where he became very popular. His Bisons coach Phil Watson's praise for Billy was simple.

"Billy is a hardworking hockey player and he's a good hockey player."

And the Bisons GM Fred Hunt liked Billy from another standpoint.

"He's a wonderful team man. He never causes any trouble. Even at contract time, he just comes in and signs without any haggling. You never know he's on the club except when he's on the ice."

This was everything a team or a GM could wish from a player and that's exactly what they got from Billy.

Everybody, including Billy, thought that his playing days in the NHL were over until Chicago called for his services during the 1967 playoffs. Billy's next break came with the expansion. Pittsburgh Penguins claimed Billy in the 1967 expansion draft and he went on to play two full seasons with Pittsburgh, scoring a fine 16 goals for the expansion team in 67-68 and followed it up with another solid campaign.

At the start of the 1969-70 season Billy was traded to his old club Detroit. He played 70 games for Detroit and was a valuable checker. He played another season in Detroit before being sent down to the CHL.

Billy's last active season came in 1971-72 when he played for the Tidewater Wings in the AHL. At the time of his retirement he was 39-years old.

Dea, who was a second cousin of New York Rangers star Don Murdoch, would stay in hockey all of his life. For a time he would coach the Red Wings and later in life he would serve as a scout for the Wings and the Florida Panthers. He also ran a ladies' hair salon in Fort Erie, Ontario.


Anonymous,  5:54 AM  

Billy volunteers at the golf course I work at and he is a wonderful man. He still works just as hard now as he did then. I cant believe we have this legend among us. :)

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