From making an impact with youth in both football and hockey, to behind the bench in the National Hockey League, Tom Watt has provided a positive voice to inspire others to be better athletes and people in their everyday lives.
Born and raised in Toronto, ON, Watt made a name for himself in the coaching ranks at the University of Toronto.
In 15 Hockey seasons (1965-79, 1984-85), Watt guided the Blues to 11 OUAA titles and nine CIAU national championships, including eight consecutive OUAA titles (1966-73) and five consecutive CIAU championships (1969-73).
In 1971, Watt was named the first recipient of the CIAU Hockey Coach of the Year Award.
During his tenure at the University of Toronto, Watt also served as an Assistant Varsity Football Coach from 1965-71.
Watt broke into the NHL coaching ranks as an Assistant Coach with the Vancouver Canucks in 1980–81. His first NHL head coaching experience came with the Winnipeg Jets, whom he guided for two-plus seasons (1981 to 1984).
Watt pointed out his ambition was never to become an NHL coach.
“When I first started out coaching in the NHL there were only six teams,” Watt said. “Honestly, it was my never aim to be a professional coach, it just kind of happened. Over a period of time as I coached at the professional level, my view changed the longer I was involved.”
In 1981-82, the Jets were entering their third season as an NHL franchise and coming off a disappointing season where the year prior they only won nine games and finished in the cellar of the NHL.
Watt guided the Jets to a 48-point improvement in the standings, and was named Coach of the Year, winning the Jack Adams Award for his turnaround efforts of the team’s fortunes.
“The team was very young and many nights we started six rookies on a pretty regular basis, which in today’s NHL would be unheard of,” Watt said. “I have to give John Ferguson lots of credit for assembling that team. He drafted really well and the players made an impact quite quickly. We had some really good young talent and of course one of those rookies (the late) Dale Hawerchuk went on to become a Hall of Famer.”
After Winnipeg, Watt returned to Vancouver and held positions of Head Coach and Assistant General Manager with the Canucks for two seasons beginning in 1985–86.
Watt also served as an Assistant Coach with the Calgary Flames during their 1989 Stanley Cup championship.
“My timing was quite good when I joined the Flames as they had a great core and were coming off a season where they led the NHL in scoring but were middle of the pack in goals against,” said Watt.
“The leadership in the room on that Flames team was remarkable with both Jim Peplinski and Lanny McDonald,” Watt said. “From a coaching standpoint we were stressing that they had to improve defensively. The players bought in to the message and the veteran players helped to make everyone aware that they had to tighten things up on the backend, in order to make a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.”
In 1990, he was hired as an Assistant Coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and took over as Head Coach just 12 games into the 1990–91 NHL season. After two seasons behind the Maple Leafs’ bench, he served within the Toronto organization as Director of Professional Development in 1992–93 and Director of Pro Scouting in 1993–94.
Watt then became the Head Coach for the Leafs’ farm club, the St. John’s Maple Leafs of the American Hockey League (AHL) for two seasons beginning in 1994–95.
When reflecting on his coaching tenure, Watt pointed out he is proud he coached over six decades beginning in 1959 right up to 2002 under the late Bryan Murray with the Anaheim Ducks.
Presently, Watt is active in a part-time scouting role with the Toronto Maple Leafs.