Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bill McDougall

As an avid hockey fan, I recall hearing from afar the playoff scoring exploits of one Bill McDougall of the Cape Breton Oilers in 1993. Over a six week period, consisting of 16 games he fired 26 goals and 26 assists for an incredible 52 points. This very well could have been the greatest playoff performance ever. In addition, the Oilers won the Calder Cup AHL championship that season going 14 and 2 along the way. McDougall scored at least one point in each game of the playoffs, he scored at least two points in 14 of the 16 games and at least three points in 10 of the 16 games. Read that last line again.
Using newspaper articles from The Halifax Daily News and The Edmonton Journal, I have managed to put together a game by game record of this amazing stretch of games.

McDougall actually got better in each of the first three rounds, scoring 3.0 points per game in round one, 4.0 points per game in round two, and 4.5 points per game in the two game round three. During the final round, he fell to a merely excellent 2.4 points per game. Overall, his 52 points in 16 games is an average of 3.25 per match. He had a hand in over 61 percent of Cape Breton’s playoff goals.
So, was this the greatest playoff scoring performance in hockey history? I decided to compare McDougall's 16 game run against the greatest scorer ever. I went through Wayne Gretzky’s career game by game log to find if he ever had a sixteen game stretch like McDougall’s. It turns out that The Great One, (not surprisingly) on five different occasions had better than 52 points in a 16 game stretch.
Gretzky’s best output was his last 16 games of November and December 1981 in which he tallied 58 points. This culminated with Wayne scoring nine goals in the last two games of December to reach 50 goals in 39 games. Gretzky never did top 26 goals in a 16 game period, and McDougall’s playoff tops Gretz’s best 16 straight playoff games by 8 points. Sure, it wasn’t the NHL, but the pressure and relative dominance still stands for something.
Bill McDougall was a rare player in that he never played major junior or college hockey. He was playing Junior B with the Streetsville Derbys as a 20 year old, and played with the Humbolt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior League the year after. Two seasons in the Newfoundland Senior League followed before he finally turned pro with the Erie Panthers of the East Coast League at the age of 23. Here he scored 148 points in 57 games garnering MVP honours. Signed as a free agent in 1990 by the Red Wings, he scored 10 goals in 11 games at the end of that season. Three productive years in the AHL brings us to his 1993 playoff exploits.

At this point in his career, McDougall was playing for a contract, (as he was most of the time). He was turning 27 that summer and believed he deserved an honest crack at the NHL. He had been up for a cup of coffee with Edmonton at the end of the season scoring 3 points in 4 games. Following his 52 point playoff, Glen Sather, who finally did attend the last three games of the final, said of him, “He handles the puck, he sees everybody…he made a lot of things happen.” Slats wasn’t impressed enough to offer the one-way contract that McDougall coveted. He had a standing offer to play the following season in Zurich, Switzerland for $100,000 tax free. However, when Tampa Bay offered him a two year contract he jumped.

In the Lightning’s first game of 1993-94, McDougall scored two goals and an assist. This would prove to be the high point of his NHL experience. Apparently, coach Terry Crisp was not a fan of his and the ice time dwindled. McDougall went down to the IHL’s Atlanta Knights and won yet another minor league championship. This year he scored a still impressive 19 points in 14 playoff games. In the end, he had tallied 3 goals and 3 assists for Tampa Bay in 22 regular season games and they bought him out of the final year of his contract.

That was it for Bill McDougall in North American professional hockey. He would star for the following nine years in Europe playing in Italy, Germany and Switzerland even winning a few Spengler Cups with team Canada. He would end his career playing senior hockey in southern Ontario with the Dundas McCoys. As of the start of the 2008-09 season, Bill McDougall is in his first year as head coach of the Milton IceHawks in the Ontario Tier 2 circuit.

Can we honestly compare Bill McDougall’s exploits in the AHL to that of some of the greatest scorers in hockey history? Although this was the AHL, and his playoff opposition was in the form of goalies Fredric Chabot, Damian Rhodes, Mike Maneluk and Olaf Kolzig; Rhodes and Kolzig both went on to future success in the NHL. The fact that this was a successful championship run, as well as McDougall’s far superior playoff dominance rating, I believe make McDougall’s efforts the most impressive in the game’s history.


juris said...

seen him play in adirondack red wings.. carried the team..

Lazarus Man said...

I had forgotten about him. I was a long-time Erie Panthers fan and McDougall is still a legend there. I remember him signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning and scored against the Penguins once, if I remember correctly.

It wasn't the McDougall "could have been a contender." He WAS a contender. It was the NHL's loss he didn't stick.

Anonymous said...

Bill and his brother Rob lived in my townhouse complex for a short time in the late 80s. Great guys, Rob would come out and play road hockey with us, Bill not so much.

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