Jim Harrison started to play hockey at an early age in Alberta and was soon a product of the Bruins junior system. He played for the strong Estevan Bruins team between 1964-68. Jim collected 232 points (107 goals, 125 assists) in 178 games for the Estevan team. His great performance in the 1968 playoffs where he led all scorers in goals (13), assists (22) and points (35) in only 14 games gave him the playoff MVP award.
"When I was with the Bruins, I had such a bad shot I was embarrassed to shoot," Jim said.
With that in mind it wasn't so strange that Jim had trouble putting points on the board. The Bruins shipped Jim to Toronto on December 10, 1969 for Wayne 'Swoop" Carleton. In Toronto Jim saw more ice time, but there he was stuck behind a pretty solid bunch of centers as well. Dave Keon would scored over 300 goals and Norm Ullman over 400 goals in their careers. These were two centers who were headed for the Hall of Fame. Even though Jim had his best season in 1971-72 (19 goals and 36 points) he wasn't all that happy with his situation in Toronto. The Leafs GM Jim Gregory offered him a contract but Jim declined.
Shortly thereafter Alberta/Edmonton Oilers (WHA) GM Bill Hunter approached Jim for a possible deal. Jim accepted Hunter's offer and walked away with a 4-year contract worth $300,000 and a new Buick Riviera every season!.
Years later Jim admitted that he was glad to get out of Toronto.
"Yeah, I was definitely glad to get out of Toronto. I was kind of lost in the shuffle. I had a rap to be inconsistent but general managers say things like that when they're angry."
Jim wasn't exactly taken with the Oilers when he first arrived, although it was his home territory. His wife was homesick for her family in Toronto,and he was upset by the small crowds for many of the games.
"It was almost like playing junior again, the crowds were so small," Jim said.
He however quickly adjusted to the small crowds. Jim played very well in his first WHA season (72-73) scoring a fine 86 points (39 goals and 47 points) in 66 games. He missed 13 games with a fractured kneecap when he slid into a goalpost in Philadelphia in late November. He then returned in late December and managed to only score one goal in the next 21 games, still he wound up with 39 goals.
On one of these nights he exploded for 10 points, a WHA record. It came on January 30, 1973 when the Alberta Oilers pounded the New York Raiders 11-3. He had a hat trick (his first hat trick in 226 pro games) and seven assists. In one 53-second span in the final period he counted three points against the baffled Raiders goalie, Ian Wilkie, who ironically became a teammate in Edmonton with Jim later on.
That season proved to be Jim's best pointwise. In 1973-74 he had 69 points in only 47 games. He then was selected to play in the 1974 WHA-Soviet series. He appeared in 3 games and had one assist.
In October 1974 Jim was traded to the Cleveland Crusaders (still WHA) where he played for two seasons, scoring 114 points in 119 games. That was it for Jim in the WHA. He finished his WHA career with 269 points (117 goals and 132 points) in 232 games.
He returned to the NHL for the 1976-77 season to play for Chicago. During that season he scored a fine 41 points (18 goals and 23 points) in only 60 games. The rest of his career was shortened by various injuries. He only played 26 games for Chicago in 77-78 and 21 in 78-79. On September 24, 1979 he was traded back to the Edmonton Oilers. This time the Oilers were to play in the NHL. Jim only played in three games for Edmonton during that 1979-80 season before he was forced to retire due to back problems that had bothered him for several years.
Jim was a willing worker, especially in the corners and along the boards. He was also a fine penalty killer. His reckless style was often the reason why he was injured so much.
Special thanks to Pat Houda