Bryan Watson, who has spent more times in the penalty box than any other player in National Hockey League history, received recognition of a more positive nature last night.
The Washington Capitals' defense man was in Toronto to accept the Charlie Conacher Memorial trophy, presented annually to an NHL player for participation in humanitarian causes.
For nine years, Watson and his wife, Lindy, have contributed their time and energy to the Special Olympics. There achivements in that area were more specifically cited Wednesday in New York when Watson received the International Athlete Award at the seventh annual lunchcon of the athletes, sportwriters and aportscasters for the Special Olympics.
Watson became involved with the Special Olympics while playing in Pittsburgh. Performing public relations duries for the Penguins, he was asked to take a group of retarded children from Westinghouse High School, teach them the fundamentals of floor hockey and then escort them to a tournament in Toronto.
"Once you get involved with the kids, it's contagious." Watson said. "You want to do everything for them you can."
Today, Watson will be in Mt. Pleasant, Mich, for a two-day Special Olympics competition. Before his trade to the Capitals from Detroit in November, 1976, the Watsons served as co-shairpersons of the Michigan Special Olympics. Now he conducts a Special Olympics hockey program in Washington.
"It's something we look forward to doing," Watson said. "We actually get a lot from the kids. The enthusiasm of the kids gets us pumped up and it becomes tremendous therapy tor us.
"Emotionally, we get very high. But of course we're not withthem all the time. It must be a tremendous drain emotionally on the volunteers who are with the kids all the time."
The Charlie Conacher trophy is named for the Toronto Maple Leafs' Hall of Framer who died of cancer in 1967. The dinner associated with the award, along with old-timer hockey games, has raised more than $700,000 for cancer research since 1968.
Among the previous winners of the Conacher trophy are Jean Beliveau, Bobby Orr, Ed Westfall, Johnny Bucyk, Bobby Baun and George Armstrong.
"I'm really thrilled about it," Watson said."This has been some week. I've been at the Charlie Conacher dinner before and I know what a great award this is. Yesterday, I was with the Kennedy Foundation people in New York and now here I am getting honored by the hockey people."
Next week, Watson will fly to Marbella, Spain, for a meeting of the NHL family will be off to their cottage in Halliburton, Ontario, for the summer. There is, however, one peice of hockey business set for hot weather completion - a new contract.
Entering his option year at age 35, Watson is unlikely to receive another five-year pact like the one that is expiring. but the Capitals won't let him get away, either, after an outstanding (minus 12) personal season and the excellent job he did helping partner Robert Picard become acclimated to the NHL.
"We would like to get that (Watson's contract) completed quickly," said General Manager Max McNab.