|Billy McNeill, North Vancouver, BC, standing over Gordie Howe c. 1965|
|5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
185 lb (84 kg)
Grand Rapids Rockets
Detroit Red Wings
Hamilton Tiger Cubs
Salt Lake Golden Eagles
San Diego Gulls
|Born||January 26, 1936,|
Edmonton, AB, CAN
|Died||August 31 2007 (aged 71),|
Surrey, BC, CAN
|Pro Career||1955 – 1971|
Edmonton and Detroit
In 1955 McNeill turned pro with the local Edmonton Flyers of the WHL, who played their games in the old Edmonton Gardens. In 1956 McNeill was called up to the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL following serious injuries to Alex Delvecchio and Bill Dineen. During the next eight seasons, he was called up from the Flyers six times, playing 257 games in the NHL.
On February 5, 1960, McNeill was to be traded to the New York Rangers with Red Kelly for Bill Gadsby and Eddie Shack, but Kelly and McNeill refused to report and the transaction was cancelled. As a result Kelly temporarily retired and McNeill was suspended for the rest of the season. New York then picked him up in an intra-league draft in June of that year, only to trade him back to Detroit in January 1961, who in turn assigned him back to the Flyers in Edmonton.
In the six seasons he played for Detroit, he wore sweater numbers 19 and 15.
Later WHL career
In January 1964, McNeill was traded by Detroit to the Vancouver Canucks (of the WHL) for Barrie Ross and future considerations. In Vancouver he began six seasons with the Canucks wearing sweater number 16. He became an enduring star player and perennial fan favourite in the PNE Forum arena, winning the Leader Cup as MVP of the WHL two years' running, in 1965 and 1966. He was also selected to the WHL's First All-Star team both those years. He was known for his short stick with a rounded bottom to the blade.
His best season as a pro was 1965-'66 in Vancouver when he finished with 40 goals and 62 assists, both career highs. He tied Portland's Art Jones for second place in league scoring. He also had 6 goals and 13 points in the playoffs that year.
On August 19, 1969, he was traded by Vancouver to the Salt Lake Golden Eagles for Germain Gagnon and cash. He missed most of the 1969-70 season with an ankle injury suffered against Phoenix in November 1969. McNeill retired after the 1971 season while with the San Diego Gulls, scoring 29 points in 64 games and appearing in six playoff games.
Assist on record-breaking goal
McNeill assisted on Gordie Howe's (then) record-breaking 545th goal in November 1963.
It was McNeill's first assist of the season. He told reporter Pat Curran that it was a "perfect goal." "Bill Gadsby was yelling at me on one side and Gordie was shouting on the other and telling me to take the lead out. He knew we had a three-on-two break. When I dumped the puck over he shot past (Canadiens' goalie Charlie) Hodge on the short side." Montreal Canadiens' legends Jean Béliveau and Jacques Laperrière were defending on the play.
- 1964-65 George Leader Cup
- 1965-66 George Leader Cup
- Billy McNeill's career stats at The Internet Hockey Database
- Billy McNeill's biography at Legends of Hockey
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