‘The one we depended on’

·4 min read

The Southern Shore and the hockey world at large are reflecting on Kenny William’s legacy following his passing last week.

Williams got his start playing pond hockey in his hometown of Bay Bulls, but would grow to become so influential and involved in hockey on a local, provincial, and even national level that the name ‘Kenny Williams’ would become synonymous with hockey along the Shore.

In 1986, Williams was a member of a small group lobbying for the construction of a badly needed Southern Shore arena.

“Getting a stadium here on the shore was no small feat,” said Loyola Hearn, another foundational figure in Southern Shore hockey history. “We had a tremendous hockey league, and we used to play in St. John’s all the time, at Feildian Gardens, and we would block the Garden every Sunday night. Every yellow school bus that was on the shore, and cars besides, were at Feildian Gardens.”

Still, said Hearn, there were challenges, largely tied to the Shore’s sparse population.

“We just had enough in each community to make up a team,” said Hearn. “For example, we never had a full roster in Renews; usually we had two lines, and maybe an extra defenseman. If we made up three lines occasionally with a few juniors we were lucky. And most communities were like that, because the population was so small. So, then to go after a stadium in an area, where as I say, the population is so small, was no small feat at all. And Kenny and others were the driving force. You can’t just go into an area, especially a small area, and build a stadium, and you can’t just go get the money, unless you have organization on the ground and people who are willing to do a tremendous amount of work. And one of those people certainly right from the start, was Kenny Williams.”

When the arena was constructed in 1987, Williams was hired on as the stadium manager.

Today, that stadium he fought so hard to see built and which he managed for decades bears his name, being rechristened the Ken Williams Southern Shore Arena in 2019.

“He was one of the fellows who was there for the right reason,” said Hearn. “We always say that people take on a job because it’s a job. But not with Kenny… I would say for 15 years or more that I was on the local hockey scene, coaching and on the executive, and although that period, Kenny was there. He was the one we depended on. He wasn’t just a stadium manager — he was Kenny. And whether you were 8 or 80 you depended on Kenny. He was there to make sure everything went well. Whether it was a simple minor hockey practise or a Breakers championship game, one of the fellows who would be there making sure that everything was ready was Kenny Williams. He had a total dedication to the job.”

There was no league that Williams did not play a fundamental role in. He was elected as the founding President of the Southern Shore Minor Hockey Association and served as an HNL provincial coordinator for 24 years. In 1993 he was fundamental in organizing the Avalon West Senior Hockey League and served as its first president. Williams also served as a Director of the Southern Shore Breakers Senior Club, Treasurer for the Avalon East League and President of the Southern Shore Amateur Hockey Association, and even more besides. He was a Branch Representative on Hockey Canada and chaired the Hockey Canada meetings in St. John’s.

Ferryland PC candidate Loyoala O’Driscoll, played senior hockey with the Breakers during the nineties and was on ice for a number of championship wins, released a statement reflecting on the passing of Williams.

“Without Kenny, the Southern Shore Breakers wouldn’t be five-time Herder champions and the point of pride for the community they are today,” said O’ Driscoll. “His dedication to the community and to sports cannot be overstated or replaced.”

Williams was inducted into the NL Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015 and received national recognition in 2017 when he was awarded the Hockey Canada Meritorious Award.

Williams is remembered mostly for his dedication to and involvement in the hockey community, but he was also involved in government at a municipal level. Williams was a member of the first Bay Bulls council following incorporation in 1986 (the same year Williams was fighting to see a stadium constructed on the Shore.)

“An ex-councillor, he was an individual who was synonymous with the Southern Shore Arena and hockey in the area for many years,” said Bay Bulls Mayor Harold Mullowney during his town’s March 8 council meeting. “He put an awful lot of time into recreation and volunteer activities in this town. Ken will be sorely missed. He contributed tremendously to both council and the community at large.”

Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News