Bill Nyrop

Ken Dryden wasn't the only scholar on the Montreal Canadiens in the 1970s. Defenseman Bill Nyrop was equally as cerebral off the ice.

Bill always went his own way. He won the Stanley Cup in each of his first three NHL seasons and then suddenly retired. Despite teammates and coaches efforts to try changing his mind he decided not to play anymore. Bill eventually returned to the NHL for one season in 1981-82 after a three season absence from the hockey scene.

Bill had a very solid four year career at the University of Notre Dame between 1970-74. In 1972-73 he was named to the WCHA 2nd All-Star team and to the 1st NCAA West All-American team. Prior to that All-Star season he had been picked by Montreal in the 1972 Amateur Draft. (66th overall). Bill wasn't the fastest player around but he was a very smart player who was very efficient in front of his own net where he used his great size very well.

After spending almost two seasons in the AHL with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs, he got his chance to play for the Canadiens late during the q975-76 season. In the 19 games for Montreal Bill was a solid +21 and won himself a regular spot on the Canadiens blueline, winning the Stanley Cup immediately.

In September 1976 Bill had the honor to represent USA in the Canada Cup tournament where he was one of the steadiest players on the squad.

In 1976-77 Bill once again won the Stanley Cup with Montreal. He had a rock solid +42 rating (14th best overall) and scored 22 points during the regular season. In his third season Montreal once again won the Stanley Cup.  Three seasons and three Cup titles was more than most players could ever dream of. This was Bill's best season, as he achieved a career high of 26 points and a +56 rating (7th best overall).

Then Bill suddenly decided to walk away from it all despite being offered a very lucrative contract.  Bill stunned a lot of people by his decision but he was an independent thinker and very confident of what he was doing. He opted to return to school to pursue a law degree.

Late in 1980 Montreal traded his rights to Minnesota. Minnesota's GM Lou Nanne began to persuade Bill on returning back to hockey. Bill finally agreed on trying out with the North Stars. He was tested during a tournament in Stockholm (Sweden) in September 1980, named the Dagens Nyheter Cup (DN-Cup). There he impressed the North Stars staff enough to earn himself a spot on the team.

But it wasn't until the following season that Stars convinced Bill to come out of retirement for good. Bill played very well for Minnesota during that 1981-82 season. He had the third best +/- figure (+14) in only 42 games. Bill had however indicated to Nanne that he would probably only play one season, so Nanne traded Bill to Calgary so he could get something in return.

Bill never reported to Calgary, instead he went over to Europe briefly where he played for the German team Kolner Haie in 1982-83. After that he quit hockey for good to finish his law degree.

After nine years out of the hockey scene Bill returned in 1992 as the coach and owner of the West Palm Beach Blaze. He led the Blaze to three Sunshine League titles before selling the team in 1995. He was going to remain in the league as a coach for the West Palm Beach Barracudas of the Southern League.

But in September 1995 Bill was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. Tests showed that an aggressive form of cancer had started in his colon and then had spread to his liver and lungs within two months. Bill underwent chemotherapy treatments to keep the illness in remission as long as possible.

Goalie Kelly Dyer, who played for Bill with the Blaze was one of the last of his players to talk to him:
" We talked on Christmas (1995)," Dyer said, "and he said, ' Kelly, what I wouldn't do for a pair of skates and a sheet of ice ' "

Bill's former roommate from the Montreal days Doug Jarvis said: " There was always more to Bill than being a player. He was always reading books so he could expand his thinking. "

Only two months before Bill passed away he said that he never became bitter: " I've been lucky to do a lot of interesting things and to meet a lot of interesting people. There's nothing to be bitter about. "

It was hard to believe that this 43-year old who only months before he passed away had biked 1,000 miles from the Pacific Ocean to Yellowstone Park looking and feeling better than anytime before, would soon be gone. Only a couple of hours into the new year (1996) Bill died in his fathers home in Minneapolis.


Anonymous,  3:13 PM  

The most amazing man I have ever known. I rode with him on the 1.000 mile bike ride from the Pacific Ocean to Yellowstone in June 1995 and you would have NEVER known he was ill. We rode 100+ miles per day which often included hiking up mountains to crater lakes as his love for nature would not allow him to pass up an opportunity to enjoy such an experience. Made for grueling workouts! He pushed himself and those around him, both physically and mentally beyond anyone I've ever known. He once told me that when he was in a face off for the puck he would purposely whistle some song, regardless of how out of breath he might have been just to intimidate the other player! A man of extremely high integrity, perseverance, kindness, humilty, and determination. He ALWAYS demanded ONLY the best of himself and gently urged this from others, as well with a mix of his polite, unassuming nature and his unconventional sense of humor. He was an amazing coach and mentor to many! May he live on in our hearts and memories forever!!

The Last Commie 12:07 AM  

He sounds amazing! I remember him as a great hockey player, but I don't remember him (a defenceman) taking any face-offs.

Don Heath,  9:52 AM  

Bill was an all around great guy. He was a childhood friend of mine. I knew him from Kindergarten through High school. At 14 years old we played hockey together on a team that won the 1967 Minnesota State Bantam Hockey Tournament. I'll never forget Bill's encouragement to me to work hard in tryouts to make that team. And oh yeah, Bill was a solid smooth defenseman even at 14. It saddened me greatly when I heard of his passing.

LDK Hockey Fan,  9:19 PM  

I am sorry to see he died at such a young age. I thought of him tonight while watching former teammate Brian Engblom doing interviews after the Black Hawks-Kings game. I remembered Engblom from the Canadien's Cup teams that preceded the Islander's Cups, and of course remembered Bill Nyrop as well, the guy who walked away from hockey after winning 3 Cups in his first 3 years. Where did he go? What happened to him? Now, with the help of my computer, sadly, I know. RIP Bill Nyrop, Stanley Cup Champion, and great human being.

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