"I used the boards a lot, grinding it up and down one side," explained Bill as described his style of play. "I stayed on my wing and used the boards as sort of a cushion you might say. It was a pretty hard cushion, but a cushion nonetheless."
But unlike many pugnacious wingers of his day, Fairbairn was fair, pardon the pun. He was a very clean player for the most part. He only accumulated 173 PIM in 658 regular season games. His highest PIM seasonal total was 53 PIM in 1971-72, and that was uncharacteristically high for the little guy.
Bill Fairbairn was born in Brandon, Manitoba. He grew up as a star local player, culminating in his joining of the famed local junior club, the Brandon Wheat Kings, a New York Rangers sponsored junior team, in 1964-65. In 55 games he scored 28 goals with 31 assists. Fairbairn's sophomore season was even better. In 60 games he recorded 36 goals along with 76 assists. During Bill's last season in Brandon, 1966/67, he served as team Captain of the Wheat Kings and posted an incredible 60 goals and 81 assists in 55 games.
The 1967-68 season found Fairbairn playing with the C.H.L. Omaha Knights. He was teamed up with his former Wheat King teammate, Juha Widing and the two quickly found their rythym. Fairbairn's first season in the minors saw him record 23 goals with 33 assists for 56 points, just 4 points behind Widing for the team lead. The following season Fairbairn and Widing took their game to a higher level. In 68 games recorded 28 goals and 47 assists for 75 points. That placed Bill second in team scoring (behind Widing) and 6th overall in league scoring. For his efforts Bill was named to the CHL second All Star team and even got a one game call-up with the NY Rangers.
The 1969/70 season was Fairbairn's first full season in the N.H.L.. Fairbairn and Widing were both promoted to the Rangers squad, but not on the same line. Widing was soon traded to Los Angeles which meant Fairbairn had to find a new niche. He found that niche came on the Rangers checking line.
Fairbairn found a home with Dave Balon (later Steve Vickers) and Walt Tkaczuk on the "Bulldog Line." The trio were renowned for their hard hitting, hard forechecking style. Though defense was their primary concern, the line chipped in offensively as well. Fairbairn scored more than 20 goals 4 times and even topped the 30 goal mark in 1972-73. In all Fairbairn played with Rangers for 7 years. He was a consistent 60 point contributor who was at his best when he was running into people and causing havoc with his spirited, "bulldog-like" play.
Bill was traded to the Minnesota North Stars on November 11, 1976. By this point of his career Bill had clearly lost a step and injuries were starting to take their toll on the physical winger. He was exposed on waivers and claimed by the St. Louis Blues on October 24, 1977, which is where he ended his career the following season.
In Fairbairn's 10 year N.H.L. career he appeared in 658 games, scoring 162 goals with 260 assists.