A relatively late bloomer, Bill White developed into one of the game's steadiest defensemen. Although he didn't play in the NHL until he was 28 years old, he enjoyed an exemplary 11-year career. While playing with the Chicago Black Hawks, he formed one of the top blue line tandems in the league with Pat Stapleton. He was an effective positional rearguard who didn't have to play rough to achieve his goals.
A solid performer with the junior Toronto Marlboros from 1956 to 1960, White was a respected leader who served as team captain for part of his OHA tenure. He then went on to spend most of his first eight years as a pro in the AHL. He was developing in Rochester in preparation for a chance to play with the Maple Leafs when a trade sent him to "Eddie Shore's graveyard" in Springfield. Chicago tried to acquire the lanky defender but, as was his style, Shore demanded too much in return. In the meantime, White's mental toughness and defensive game were strengthened as he played under one of the strictest coaches in the history of the game. In May 1967 White finally caught a break when his rights were acquired by the expansion Los Angeles Kings. White went on to demonstrate the benefit of increased roster space for NHL-caliber players.
White scored 38 points in 74 games as a "rookie" in 1967-68 and helped solidify the club's blue line. Many felt he outplayed Calder Trophy winner Derek Sanderson, but the fact that he was 28 years old may have played a role in his not winning the top rookie honors. He played one more full season on the West Coast and led all West Division backliners with 28 assists. Then his career changed forever when he was involved in a multi-player trade with Chicago in February 1970. The Hawks were in the midst of jumping from last to first in the standings in one season and were assembling a top-flight defensive unit to play Billy Reay's style of hockey.
It was in the Windy City with defense partner Pat Stapleton, that White found his niche as a pro. Playing superb defense and making smart offensive plays when called upon, White helped the Black Hawks reach the Stanley Cup finals in 1971 and 1973 and was placed on the NHL Second All-Star Team for three straight years from 1972 to 1974.
A high point in his career came when he played seven of the eight games for Canada in the 1972 Summit Series versus the USSR. White's only goal of the series was a crucial one that tied the score 3-3 in the second period of the eighth and deciding match. It was his textbook defense and ability to thwart opposition attacks without ending up in the penalty box that made White such an important member of the blue line corps.
White remained a pillar on the Chicago defense after his long-time partner Stapleton joined the WHA in 1973. White's career was ended by an injury he suffered during the 1976 quarterfinals versus the Montreal Canadiens. While chasing a puck in the corner, Habs forwards Doug Jarvis and Bob Gainey converged on him, causing White to fall awkwardly into the boards. He was diagnosed with an injury to the cervical nerves route and wasn't able to gain full use of his right arm for months.
White stepped in to coach the Hawks during the last four months of the 1976-77 schedule after Billy Reay was fired, though he did not return the following season.