Former Washington Capitals defenseman and NHL tough guy Bryan “Bugsy” Watson passed away Thursday at the age of 78. Per a Pittsburgh Penguins spokeswoman, he passed away at his home in St. Michael’s, Maryland.
Watson was born in 1942 and started his pro career with the OHL’s Petersborough Petes. He played under Scotty Bowman and earned a contract with the Montreal Canadiens. He would go on to win the Stanley Cup with the Habs in 1965. The 5-9 blueliner made his NHL debut in 1963 and moved around a bit, playing for the Oakland Seals, Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Capitals. Following his time with Washington, he signed with the WHA for his final NHL season.
Washington acquired Watson for Greg Joly in a trade with the Red Wings midway through the 1976-77 season. The blueliner only suited up for 155 games with Washington he registered four goals, 30 points and 294 PIM. Watson was a major physical presence on the ice, and over 877 total NHL games, he logged 152 points and 2,214 PIM, and also dropped the gloves 115 times.
To this day, though, his impact lives on in the District. After hanging up the skates following his 16-year NHL run, he moved back to D.C. He and his wife, Lindy, opened a pizza restaurant on King St. in Alexandria, VA in 1983. Fittingly known as “The Penalty Box” to start, the restaurant was affectionately called “Bugsy’s” in 1998.
“…He was always really supportive of and receptive to the Caps and he was a very generous guy,” Capitals president Dick Patrick told Mike Vogel. “He was a character around here. Even people that weren’t huge Caps fans or sports fans, they knew his place and they knew his reputation. He was a big part of the local community.”
Former players, members of the NHL community and others took to social media to pay their respects to “Bugsy,” known for his gritty playing style, big heart and memorable stories. Teams also paid tribute to the late d-man.
We are saddened to learn of the passing of Bryan “Bugsy” Watson, who passed away yesterday at the age of 78.
Bugsy played 155 games for the Caps between 1976-79 and had a profound impact on the organization and city.
We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/Sen7CMzKV0
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) July 9, 2021
Very sad to learn of Bugsy’s passing, an absolute incredible human legend!
An amazing husband & father!
Since first meeting in ‘89 Bugs was like a father, brother, friend & mentor to me.
I love & will miss you my friend❤️🙏
NHL just lost a great man
My prayers to the Watson’s https://t.co/KOVpl4cWAl
— Alan May (@MayHockeyNBCS) July 9, 2021
Beyond the 3 seasons he gave the @Capitals on the ice , “ Bugsy “ gave the DC hockey community so much more. Pound for pound, as tough as anyone who played the game.
— Al Koken (@RealSmokinAl) July 9, 2021
The Penguins offer our deepest condolences to the family of Bryan 'Bugsy' Watson, who passed away yesterday at the age of 78.
Watson played for the Penguins for the better part of six seasons from 1968-1974. pic.twitter.com/nbBnj73nEh
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) July 9, 2021
In this time of pandemic losing friends is especially heartbreaking. Recently I've lost 2 men very close to my heart -Bryan "Bugsy” Watson and B'way's master wigmaker Paul Huntley. My heartbreak began with Bob Avian and Bill C. Davis. All meant so much to me. RIP beloved friends. pic.twitter.com/265RKOpKte
— Patti LuPone (@PattiLuPone) July 9, 2021
Oh man, just one of those old hockey guys who everyone you ever talked to around the Caps had a story about and liked.
Bugsy's was my favorite NoVa pizza place when I lived in Alexandria. An Old Town institution. https://t.co/YRl77hLD8O
— Corey Masisak (@cmasisak22) July 9, 2021