Fred Williams

When Fred came out of the juniors he was highly regarded by pro scouts. He played five seasons for the Saskatoon Blades (WHL) and scored 265 points  (82+183) in 319 games. These weren't any remarkable stats for a player picked in the 1st round, 4th overall in 1976, like Fred was.

But Detroit who were desperately looking for a strong centerman in 1976 liked the total package in Fred. Hall of Famer Alex Delvecchio who at that time was Detroit's GM was a big fan of Fred.

"We wanted an all-around player, not just a goal scorer or 'Fancy Dan'. We would have drafted Bernie Federko, but we felt from watching Freddie that he was the kind of a guy we wanted - a better all-around player." Delvecchio said shortly after Fred had been drafted.

Bernie Federko of course went on to score 1130 points in the NHL, which was 1123 points more than Fred ever did. At that time back in 1976 it was generally regarded that Federko played with some good wingers in the juniors, while Fred had no help at all. At the same time Fred was considered to be a much better two-way player.

Toronto's head scout, ex-NHL'er Bob Davidson also liked Fred.

"He shows a lot of poise for a rookie, and he doesn't throw the puck away" Davidson said after the 1976 pre-season. Fred's scouting report read:

"A very good skater who makes good plays. Excellent forechecker. Good shot. Good penalty killer. Plays point on the powerplay. Quiet personality. Great anticipation and hockey sense. "

Fred had a very impressing training camp as a rookie and it looked like Detroit had made a great pick. In his very first NHL game against Washington on October 7,1976 Fred was teamed with Buster Harvey and Bill Lochead. Fred scored the go-ahead goal (3-2) in the second period in the  game that ended in a 3-3 tie.

Little did people know that he would only score one more goal in his NHL career.

There was a lot of pressure on Fred and when he failed to score more points in the next few games then his confidence hit a real low. Fred only played 44 games for Detroit that 76-77 season, scoring two goals and adding five assists. He never played any more NHL games.

He was sent down to Rhode Island (AHL) in the middle of the season to get his confidence back, but he struggled there as well. (26 points in 34 games).

Although Fred made a couple of more training camps for both Detroit and Philadelphia, (where he was traded in 1979) he just couldn't crack the lineup of an NHL team. Fred played for the Kansas City Red Wings (CHL), Philadelphia Firebirds (AHL) and Maine Mariners (AHL). In 267 AHL games he scored 180 points, having a 55 and 51 point season in Maine as his best seasons. He retired only 26-years old in 1982.

It was really a shame for Fred that things didn't work out for him in the big league. He was a very modest person who was really down to earth and who didn't get a "big head" when he signed his lucrative contract with Detroit. His father worked with crane rentals and his mother was a jewellery store clerk in Saskatoon and they raised him well. Unfortunately the expectations together with his lucrative contract put more pressure on Fred then he could handle.


Anonymous,  4:23 AM  

Fred was a decent humble guy who never let his talent get to his head. Too bad he didn't meet expectations.

Anonymous,  5:49 PM  

I watched him play Junior Hockey for the Saskatoon Blades. Five years in Junior hockey which was impressive and with a good hockey club. Smooth skater and talented!

Anonymous,  4:15 AM  

I knew Fred from Saskatoon and spent a lot of time with him in the gym in the summers back in the '70s as he readied himself for NHL camps. He was an all round good guy and very humble, in spite of being one of the top hockey players in Saskatoon at the time. I think the pressure of him going so high in the draft put a lot of expectation on him and he didn't play his game in the NHL, whereas in junior he did his thing, and did well at it. He holds the record for games played with the Saskatoon Blades to this day. And for those who don't know, he started in major junior at 15 years of age. Too bad for Fred that he didn't have a long and illustrious career in the NHL. There could be no better guy you'd wish that for.

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