Thundermouth: Memoirs of a Broad Street Bully and NHL Lifer

Joe Watson

Publisher: Mascot Books Pages: 296 Price: (hardcover) $35.00 ISBN: 9781637559505 Reviewed: March, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

Joe Watson, a tough-as-nails defenseman best known for a decade-long tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers and as a two-time National Hockey League All-Star selection, recalls his career in this engaging memoir.

The book opens with a lively-but-concise chapter on Watson’s upbringing, along with his younger brother (and future Flyers teammate) Jimmy, in rural Smithers, British Columbia. After that, it’s straight into the hockey action.

Watson recounts his development in minor-league hockey. Later, he was called up to the NHL with the Boston Bruins, although, as is typical in a player’s early years, he shifted between the minors and the NHL several times. Along the way, because he lacked an “inside voice,” he picked up the ironic nickname “Whispers,” which eventually evolved into the much-cooler “Thundermouth.”

Here, he offers insight into the life of a professional hockey player in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Watson was one of the first hockey players drafted during the 1967 NHL expansion for the newly created Flyers. These were the smashmouth days, and Watson was as tough-minded and gritty as you’d find. He wasn’t the kind of defenseman who lit up the scoreboard as some do now. However, one of his career highlights was scoring a shorthanded goal to contribute to the Flyers’ 4-1 victory in a 1976 exhibition game against Russia’s “Red Army” team, prompting Flyers’ coach Fred Shero to claim Watson had “set Russian hockey back 25 years.”

Other stories include Watson’s brief meeting with legendary daredevil Evel Knievel, and how he considered signing with the relatively short-lived rival World Hockey Association for a massive payday in 1972. He also offers all the bruising details about the Flyers’ back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in the early 1970s.

Bill Meltzer, the Flyers’ in-house reporter, served as coauthor, and the book reads well, with sharp, clean copy and sensible organization. A testament to Watson’s respect in the league, it includes a foreword from all-time hockey great Bobby Orr.

Athlete autobiographies tend to follow a standard formula, and Thundermouth doesn’t reinvent the wheel, which is fine. It provides hockey fans exactly what they seek: colorful on-ice action, off-ice challenges, and a look at the relationships a winning team needs to achieve its collective goal.

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