|Born||June 7, 1955 (1955-06-07) |
|Height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|Weight||205 lb (93 kg; 14 st 9 lb)|
|Played for||Atlanta Flames|
Minnesota North Stars
|NHL Draft||80th overall, 1975|
Willi Plett (born on June 7, 1955) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey right winger who played 834 games in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Atlanta Flames, Calgary Flames, Minnesota North Stars and Boston Bruins.
He was a fifth-round selection of the Atlanta Flames 80th overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft.
Willi first played organized hockey at the age of 12 and played junior hockey near his hometown.
He played three years in the St. Catharines Black Hawks system, but left the team midway through the 1974–75 Ontario Major Junior Hockey League season following a dispute with coach Hap Emms, joining the tier II Niagara Falls Flyers
Willi's playing style was comparable to a modern power forward, as Plett combined scoring ability with physical play and a willingness to fight.
The Atlanta Flames selected him with their fifth round selection (80th overall) at the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft.
The Flames assigned Willi to their minor league affiliate, the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League (CHL), for the 1975–76 season where developed under the team's coach, and former NHL enforcer Orland Kurtenbach.
He scored 30 goals in 73 games, added 163 penalty minutes, and helped the Oilers win the Adams Cup as CHL champions. Willi also made his NHL debut during the season, appearing in four games with the Flames.
Willi was returned to Tulsa to begin the 1976–77 season where he scored 12 points in 14 games and spent the majority of the campaign in Atlanta, appearing in 64 games with the Flames. He scored 33 goals and 23 assists for the Flames, enough to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year.
Willi scored 22 goals in 1977–78 and 23 in 1978–79 and amassed nearly 400 penalty minutes over those two seasons as he established a reputation as an enforcer who could also score. He scored only 13 goals in 1979–80, but set a Flames' franchise record with 231 penalty minutes.
He transferred with the franchise when it relocated to Canada to become the Calgary Flames in the 1980–81 season.
Playing on the Flames' top line alongside Kent Nilsson & Guy Chouinard, Willi enjoyed his greatest season statistically, setting career highs with 38 goals, 68 points and 239 penalty minutes.
He established himself as a fan favourite in Calgary & shared the team playoff scoring lead with Bob MacMillan with eight goals as the Flames reached the semi-finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Willi's offensive production fell to 21 goals in 1981–82, a season in which he became an outspoken critic of head coach Al MacNeil.
The Flames replaced MacNeil as coach following the season, but he also chose to trade him in a June 7, 1982 trade. He was sent to the Minnesota North Stars in exchange for Steve Christoff and Bill Nyrop, both teams also exchanged draft picks.
The NHL suspended Willi for eight games early in his first season with the North Stars after he was given a match penalty for slashing Detroit Red Wings goaltender Greg Stefan in the head. He scored 25 goals on the season but he recorded 19 fewer points than the year before and his 170 penalty minutes was his lowest total since his rookie season.
Willi scored only 15 goals and 38 points in 1983–84 and quarreled with coach Bill Mahoney over playing time. Plett received more time after the two resolved their differences and he re-focused on the physical side of his game which had been lacking in the previous few seasons.
He finished the season with a career high 319 penalty minutes. He was dogged by injuries in his following three seasons, missing time due to a groin injury and injuring his shoulders on several occasions & his offensive production decreased each year, falling to 11 points by 1986–87.
The North Stars traded Willi to the New York Rangers (in exchange for Pat Price) on September 7, 1987, but he never played a game for New York, but as the Boston Bruins took him in the waiver draft prior to the season's start. He appeared in 65 games for the Bruins in 1987–88, scoring two goals, five points and recording 170 penalty minutes.
Willi appeared in 17 playoff games, scoring six points, as the Bruins reached the 1988 Stanley Cup Finals before losing to the Edmonton Oilers. He retired following the season.
|1974–75||St. Catharines Black Hawks||OMJHL||22||6||8||14||63||—||—||—||—||—|
|1982–83||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||71||25||14||39||170||9||1||3||4||38|
|1983–84||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||73||15||23||38||316||16||6||2||8||51|
|1984–85||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||47||14||14||28||157||9||3||6||9||67|
|1985–86||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||59||10||7||17||231||5||0||1||1||45|
|1986–87||Minnesota North Stars||NHL||67||6||5||11||263||—||—||—||—||—|
Willi's parents (who had lived in the Soviet Union & then Germany) fled to South America to escape the Second World War & settled in Asunción, Paraguay where he was born. His family moved to Canada a year after his birth, settling in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada.
After retiring from professional hockey, Willi returned to the Atlanta area where he opened Willi Plett's Sports Park (now out of business) a golf course and theme park in Woodstock, Georgia.