Bugsy Watson Reflects on Ace Bailey

Posted September 11, 2014

Garnet “Ace” Bailey – photo via The Washington Capitals

Former Washington Capitals winger Garnet “Ace” Bailey was one of nearly 3,000 people who died during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. At the time, he was the pro scouting director of the L.A. Kings, and was on United Airlines flight 175, headed home to Los Angeles from Boston with scout Mark Bavis. Former Caps coach Bruce Boudreau had also been with them, but left a day earlier. Boudreau wrote about it in Gabby: Confessions of a Hockey Lifer, which Japers’ Rink excerpted several years ago.

Bugsy Watson (Caps)

Bugsy Watson (Caps)

“One of the greatest experiences was spending time with Ace,” said Bryan “Bugsy” Watson, an NHL veteran when he joined the Capitals in 1976. “He was quite a guy. He was tough and fierce. He was really tough and really strong. He had a really kind heart. My kids adored him.”

Watson, who won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens in 1965, was traded to the lowly Capitals in ’76, where Bailey had already been playing since 1975. While the Capitals “didn’t have enough talent,” at the time, according to Watson, he had no regrets coming to D.C. “Can’t imagine what he would’ve missed if he wasn’t traded to the Capitals. Greatest experience was the city itself and so much more.”

Watson, who owned Bugsy’s Restaurant and Sports Bar in Alexandria until he sold it last year, stayed in touch with Bailey over the years. “We clashed on the ice playing against each other. He became friends, and we had mutual friends in Detroit.”

After his death, Bailey’s family started Ace Bailey’s Children’s Foundation, which raises money for hospitalized children.

“We had a fabulous time in Washington,” Watson said.

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