The Complete World Hockey Association

Hal Willis Harold Willis

Height: 6-2
Weight: 215
Shoot: L
Born: 8 Jun 1946, Liverpool NS


Regular Season & Playoff Scoring Record (key)

year team
1972-73 New York
1973-74 Los Angeles


'Mad Dog' Willis Delights Fans • by Larry Bortstein • The Hockey Spectator • February 2, 1973

As Mike Parizeau of the Quebec Nordiques carried the puck into the Raiders' defensive zone, New York's blue line combination of Hal Willis and Ken Block converged on him. Parizeau, throttled this time, dropped to the ice, largely because of being run into by Block.

The next thing Willis knew, he was in the penalty box, whistled down by the referee for two minutes on a slashing call.

"No way I slashed him," said Willis later. "I knew the ref was going to call something against me, though, He had been bugging me all night, following me around. Complain? What's the use of complaining? You always come out on the short end of the pocketbook. I've got a reputation for penalties and the refs are looking for it."

"The refs aren't alone. One of the great delights for Raider fans this season has been the hell-bent play of New York's biggest defenseman, the 6-2, 215-pound Willis, the guy the Raiders call "Mad Dog," but whom the fans have come to know as "The Glider."

"I don't mind nicknames," says New York's big No. 5. "It's nice to be known and recognized for what you're doing. I know they're kidding me with that 'Glider' thing. I'm no glider out there. But I don't care. There's a bunch of guys, about six or seven, real good fans of the Raiders, who sit right behind our bench and they're yelling at me all the time. But I know them real well now, They're season ticket-holders to our games. One told me the Rangers were giving them a tough time about getting tickets so they switched over to us. That's good.'"

One of the reasons the New York crowd relates to Willis, besides his stormy style of play, has got to be his mustache, probably the most distinctive in the league this side of J. C. Tremblay. Hal's lip rug is thick and black — and encouraged by Hal's wife, Penny. "I grew it out years ago," says Mad Dog, "and I never had any complaints from her."

The mustache creates for the 26-year-old defenseman the pression of a mean scowl. It's ironic because, Willis says, he no longer goes out on the ice looking for a fight, although he used to.

"I haven't played that way for two years," he says. "I mean, I'll take on guys who want to fight, but won't start anything. I used to get lots of two-minute fighting penalties but hardly any of my penalties are for fighting now."

The statistics, if not the naked eye, indicate that Willis is virtually genteel this season. He only recently climbed into the top 10 ranking of the World Hockey Association's penalty-minute leaders, and has been in a season-long duel with rough-housing left wing Craig Reichmuth for leadership on the Raiders.

In the minors, Hal was one of the most penalized players who ever competed. With the Long Island Ducks in 1968-69, Willis was whistled off the ice for 325 minutes. In two seasons with the Charlotte Checkers of the Eastern League, Willis sat out well over 200 minutes each year for fractions. In 1971-72, splitting his time between two Western League clubs, Seattle and Denver, Hal logged 234 minutes in penalties.

If he hadn't signed with the Raiders this season, Willis likely would have spent another year in the Western League. In last summer's National Hockey League reverse draft, he was selected by the Phoenix Roadrunners off the roster of the Denver Spurs, a farm team of the St. Louis Blues.

Hal originally was drafted for the WHA by the Houston Aeros, but the WHA rights to him were acquired by New York from Houston for a number two selection in the 1974 amateur draft. Though he enjoys playing in hockey's big time, with the financial security and comforts it brings, Willis wasn't exactly overjoyed at the prospects of playing in New York.

"I'm basically a small town guy," says Willis, who was born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, but moved with his parents to Edmonton when he was a young boy. "There's a lot of pressure playing in New York, too much sometimes, especially when the New York fans boo you. That's why I almost prefer road games, You get booed on the road, but you expect it there and you can use it to your own advantage."

"Then there's the travel problem involved in playing with the Raiders. Most of the players live in New Jersey because that's where our practice rink is. But even that's 28 miles away, and we're 40 miles away from the Garden, so we have an 80-mile round trip between home and the games. I leave at 4:30 for a home game and sometimes don't get back home until after midnight."

Though he's a lefthanded shot, Hal plays the right side on defense, while his partner, Ken Block, mans the other side. His lefthanded "shot" is not merely an academic listing in Hal's case, or at least he would prefer that it not be.

Willis rushes the puck well and would like to take more of an active role in the potent Raider offense.

"I can score, you know," he says. "I played left wing for the Long Island Ducks one year and scored 18 goals even though I was supposed to be out there mostly for rough stuff."

"But," he adds wistfully, "Camille (Raider coach) Henry doesn't want the defensemen handling the puck too much on this club. I don't like the policy, but he's the coach so you do what he says. You don't argue with the coach or with the referee. Neither one gets you anywhere."



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