Bill Masterton always dreamed of someday playing in the National Hockey League. But not unitl the league expanded to 12 teams this season did Masterton fufill his lifetime ambition. Masterton first began playing hockey in Canada's far flung junior hockey program and his first team was the St. Boniface Canadiens in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in 1956-57. But Bill - or Bat, as his North Stars' teammates called him - didn't turn professional unitl he was 23. He choose instead to pursue a bachelor of science degreee in business while on a hockey scholarship at Denver University. The Winnipeg, Man. native still fiqured he had plenty of time to make the big time even after his senior year when he scored 27 goals and collected 55 asssists on the way to being named Most Valuable Player in the NCAA tournament. Masterton recalled recently, "I signed with the Montreal organization and was assigned to their Hull-Ottawa farm club (1961-62) in the Eastern Professional Hockey League. "After scoring 31 goals and 35 assists there, I was moved up to Cleveland the following season and had what I thought was a pretty good year (American Hockey League's sixth-leading scorer). "But the Canadiens were loaded with centers so I really never had much of a chance to make the grade with them." When any of the five NHL failed to draft him out of the Montreal organization, Masterton decided to quit pro hockey and return to Denver for his master's degree in 1964. "By that time I had gotten married," Masterton continued," and there was this offer to work in contract administration for a big, established firm like Honeywell. "Everything seemed to be working out so well, I really didn't have much time to think about hockey." Wren Blair, coach and general manager of the North Stars, was aware of Masterton's two-year pro record when he scouted the 6-foot, 186-pounder in several exhibition games he played for the U.S. National team. Blair recalled, "I liked what I saw so I asked Bill if he would consider giving pro hockey another fling. When he said he would like to try it, I bought his contract from Montreal. "From what I saw of Bill in training camp, I think he'll help us. He had the misfortune of getting a shoulder seperation just before the exhibition games started, but he worked hard with Lolyd Percival, our physical fitness expert, and was able to return for our last six or seven games and get three goals and a couple of assists." Masterton said that the chance to play in the Twin Cities had a big part in his decision to return to pro hockey. "I doubt very much whether I would've considered playing hockey any place," Masterton said. "I went to training camp knowing it wouldn't be a picnic, especially after being out of pro hockey for four seasons. I had the opportunity to skate quite a bit last summer when I coached in a summer league, and I think that helped me quite a bit. I was in pretty good shape when I reported." Masterton admitted he was pleasantly suprised to still be with the parent club when it opened its regular season schedule Oct. 11. He would not have been eligible anyway to compete for the United States in the 1968 Winter Olympics because of his previous pro experience. "When I signed a two-year contract, I more of less expected to spend this season at Memphis," Masterton said at the time. "I still may end up there but even if I do, I won't be disappointed because I've given myself two years to prove that I can play in the NHL." "I realize it's ging to be tough, but if I get the opportunity to play, I'm confident that I can make it." Masterton did make it until his fatal accident Saturday night resulting in his untimely death early today.