Jerry Butler

This is Jerry Butler, the hockey player. He should not be confused with the football player, the soul singer turned politician or the porn star, so I've been told, by the same name.

This Jerry Butler made his name on the ice, as a terrific shadow and agitator. Just ask Wayne Gretzky. When 99 was breaking every record imaginable in the early 1980s, Butler earned a measure of fame by shutting him down for a stretch. It was a short stretch. Gretz scored more goals against the Canucks than anyone else.

Butler, a fine skater, was the 55th overall draft pick in the 1971 Amateur Draft courtesy of the New York Rangers. It would take three years of apprenticing in the minor leagues before Butler caught on with the Blueshirts full time in 1974-75. He scored 17 goals and 33 points that first full season.

Despite his inspiring play, the industrious winger was shipped to St. Louis in the summer of 1975 in exchange for star goaltender John Davidson. It turned out to be a good career move for Butler.

"St. Louis was a very good change for me," he told The Hockey News. "In New York they wanted a young guy who could skate, check and take the body, but the Blues saw me in a different light. It was a good mix of young and old there."

That different light allowed Butler to play more minutes. That first year he played on an effective line with Garry Unger and Bob MacMillan. Butler's own offensive totals stayed relatively the same (17 goals and 41 points), but he brought life and sandpaper to the Blues top line. The Blues even almost upset the heavily favored Buffalo Sabres in the playoffs.

Early in the 1977-78 season Butler found himself on the way home to Southern Ontario when the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired him in exchanged for the tarnished Inge Hammarstrom. Coach Roger Nielson was a big fan of Butler's mixture of speed and defensive play, and quickly Butler would become a big fan of his new coach.

"Roger was very technical in his approach. That team was the best team I played for in terms of everybody knowing their roles."

Butler played in over 2 and 1/2 seasons in Toronto. That was a very tumultuous time in Leafs history, with Punch Imlach and Harold Ballard hell bent on running the team their way, and essentially running it right into the ground.

"Everything under Ballard was strange. He had a good heart but there was so many things that were completely off the wall in Toronto, it was hard to keep track."

One was the Leafs determination to rid themselves of their heart and soul and leader in Darryl Sittler, who had a no-trade clause in his contract. To convince him to waive his no-trade clause, the Leafs began dismissing Sittler's close friends, such as a young Lanny McDonald and the popular Tiger Williams.

Butler was part of the big Tiger Williams trade in February 1980. The pair were sent to Vancouver in exchange for Bill Derlago and Rick Vaive.

"Butts" would play in parts of three seasons with the Canucks, earning temporary fame for keeping Gretzky quiet.

Butler would resurface with the Winnipeg Jets for the 1982-83 season, but retired at season's end. In 641 NHL games Jerry Butler scored 99 goals and 219 points.

One source suggests Jerry Butler went to school after retiring from hockey, and earned a 4 year Engineering degree. He then became an inspector for the city of Winnipeg.


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