James George Pritchard
Born: February 14, 1948 (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Died: April 1, 2014 (Vancouver)
A rushing defenceman, Jim Pritchard was a first-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1968 NHL amateur draft. He spent nine seasons as a professional in the minors without getting a chance to play in the NHL.
After playing junior hockey with the hometown Winnipeg Monarchs, the 5-foot-9, 175-pound defenceman joined the Winnipeg Jets of the Western Canada Hockey League for the 1967-68 season. He had 30 goals and 34 assists, as well as 158 penalty minutes, in 53 games. He was loaned to the St. Boniface Mohawks for four Allan Cup games in 1968, scoring two goals with three assists.
The Canadiens selected him third overall in the 1968 NHL draft, the first player from Western canada to be taken. (The Canadiens also had the first two picks in the draft, taking goalie Michel Plasse and centre Roger Belisle.) Pritchard spent the 1968-69 season with the Houston Apollos.
The Habs kept Pritchard on their protected list for several seasons.
Meanwhile, the defenceman began a peripatetic career in the minors, skating in four different minor-pro leagues (CHL, WHL, EHL and NAHL) for such teams as the Kansas City Blues, Salt Lake Golden Eagles, Amarillo Wranglers, Jacksonville Rockets, Clinton Comets, Long Island Ducks, Long Island Cougars, Erie Blades and Johnstown Jets.
He was an Eastern Hockey League first-team all-star with the Ducks in 1971-72, and he was a North American Hockey League second-team all-star in 1974-75 with the Cougars and in 1975-76 with the Blades. In his only full season with the Blades, Pritchard had his most productive campaign with 16 goals and 54 assists in 71 games.
“Good defence wins hockey games and Jimmy Pritchard us a top flight defenceman,” Blades coach Nick Polano said after the free-agent defenceman signed with Erie.
Though he never made the NHL, Pritchard did play in two games for the Chicago Cougars of the World Hockey Association in 1974-75. He did not get on the scoresheet.