William Mayer "Cowboy" Flett (July 21, 1943 in Vermilion, Alberta, – July 12, 1999 in Edmonton, Alberta) was a professional ice hockey player who played in the National Hockey League for the Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Atlanta Flames and Edmonton Oilers.
Flett began his career with the Melville Millionaires of the SJHL. From 1963 through 1967, he played for various minor league teams. Finally, in 1967, the NHL expanded from six to twelve teams and Flett was drafted by the expansion Los Angeles Kings. In his rookie season, playing on right wing, he scored 26 goals and was named The Sporting News NHL West Division rookie of the year.
Flett was nicknamed "Cowboy" because in addition to being a hockey player, he was also a rodeo performer. Flett's rodeo career ended when the Los Angeles King's Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke threatened to fine him $1000 for every rodeo he appeared in. He was well known throughout his career for being one of the few hockey players at the time to sport a full beard, and for being one of the last players to play without a helmet.
Flett scored 24 goals in his sophomore season. His goal production declined significantly in his next two seasons. Fed up with his dwindling production, the Kings traded Flett, along with Eddie Joyal and Ross Lonsberry to the Philadelphia Flyers where he had his best season in 1972–73 with 43 goals. Flett was a member of the Flyers 1974 Stanley Cup champion team. After the season ended, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs where he reverted to his indifferent play, and as a result, the Leafs put him on waivers. The Atlanta Flames picked him from waivers, and Flett had one last productive year in the NHL when he scored 23 goals in 1975–76. In 1976–77, the Flames sold him to the Edmonton Oilers of the WHA where he contributed nicely to the Oilers offence. When Edmonton joined the NHL, he found he had little left and retired after 20 games. He scouted for the Oilers after that.
In May 1999, Flett entered the hospital due to a gall bladder condition which eventually contributed to liver failure. Flett received a liver transplant; however, his body rejected the transplant. Flett died on July 12, 1999 due to liver failure. Flett is survived by his wife Doreen and three sons, Cody, Dean and Shane.
|1964–65||Victoria Maple Leafs||WHL||23||1||7||8||14||—||—||—||—||—|
|1967–68||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||73||26||20||46||97||7||1||2||3||8|
|1968–69||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||72||24||25||49||53||10||3||4||7||11|
|1969–70||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||69||14||18||32||70||—||—||—||—||—|
|1970–71||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||64||13||24||37||57||—||—||—||—||—|
|1971–72||Los Angeles Kings||NHL||45||7||12||19||18||—||—||—||—||—|
|1974–75||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||77||15||25||40||38||5||0||0||0||2|
- Hockey Stars of 1969 by Stan Fischler
- The Complete Handbook of Pro Hockey 1976 by Zander Hollander