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 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.