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 NEW YORK STATE HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY- HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 1998


 Bob Williams-  (Clinton 1924-1928)
   


   


And in the beginning, there was Robert H. “Bob” Williams.

He was there on the frozen ponds of 1920s Clinton, playing with a tree branch and a piece of coal, learning this new game called hockey.

He was there on the first ice sheet created for Clinton High School, staring for and coaching the inaugural Clinton High School hockey teams of the mid-1920s, establishing the winning tradition that would become a hallmark of his community.

He was there on the frozen surface of the historic indoor arena built for what would become the storied Clinton Comets, organizing the Mohawk Valley’s first professional hockey league in 1928 with his town’s “Mr. Hockey,” Edward Stanley, then later coaching Comets teams to three national championships after ending a stellar 18-year playing career.

Oh, and along the way he was chosen for the 1932 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

Williams and fellow teenage hockey enthusiast Ed Ganey got things started in 1924, approaching Clinton High School Principal Ray Smith about forming a hockey team.

The boys had been out on the local ponds and creeks with some buddies learning the game.

Among there friends was Burt Prettyman, son of the Hamilton College hockey coach, A.I. Prettyman.

Prettyman, the father, had allowed the boys to help out at the college’s new Sage Rink (built in 1921), cleaning the ice between periods, and he began schooling the boys in the sport.

The high school administration was leery of the boys’ idea for a team, though, because there wasn’t anyone to coach them — someone with knowledge of the game and a teacher’s certificate.

In a 1998 interview with The Kirkland Newspaper, Williams recalled that when Smith expressed those reservations, “I thought for a moment and said, “How About you? I’ll make you the coach.”

And thus was born the Clinton High School hockey team.

The Clinton Board of Education approved of the hockey team in December 1925, dropping the school’s basketball squad in the process. An outdoor Clinton Skating Rink was built to accommodate it on a former cow pasture near the village center.

Williams had a hat trick in the team’s first game Jan. 16, 1926, a 4-3 win over the Hamilton College freshmen at Sage Rink. Prettyman had the other goal.  

The new team went on to compile a 5-2 record that winter (also beating Yahnundahsis Golf Club, 2-0, Syracuse Central High School, 9-0, Utica Free Academy, 18-0, and St. John’s Military Academy in Manlius, 5-0; losing to Albany High School, 4-2, and the Hamilton freshmen, 4-1) and went 10-0-1 in its first full season in 1926-27, playing on its new home ice rink on Franklin Avenue.

Williams led the team in scoring in those years.

When the young hockey pioneer finished his playing days, he took over as the school’s first official hockey coach.  In 12 seasons, the team only lost five games and twice went undefeated (17-0 and 27-0). Their opponents were the few high schools with hockey teams, such as Rome and Massena, along with prep schools and college freshmen teams at Hamilton, Colgate, Cornell, Clarkson, St. Lawrence and Princeton.

Williams proceeded to become a player and later coach for the Clinton Hockey Club, the forerunner of the famed Clinton Comets that was formed in 1928. He played center from 1928-1946.

He was chosen to the 1932 Olympics but was unable to pay because he had been paid money as a referee, technically taking away his amateur status.

He coached the hockey club — which was renamed the Comets (the top choice in a poll of local residents) in conjunction with the opening of the first Clinton Arena in 1949 — to a 188-100-12 record over seven seasons, a .647 winning percentage.

Among its wins was a 9-3 victory over the Syracuse Rockets before a crowd of 1,500 in the first game at the Arena on Jan. 3, 1949.

Under Williams, the Comets were three-time AHAUS national champions in the early 1950s and twice league regular-season champions in the same period.

When he finished his coaching years in 1956, he was elected Kirkland town clerk while his wife, Mary Louise, was elected town tax collector. They served in those positions for 20 years.  

Williams also was a hockey referee and traveled to Canada with Stanley in the early 1950s to form the first area hockey league, the Ontario-New York League. The league was semi-professional, paying $20-30 a game.

During World War II, he was employed at Savage Arms and later with the Town of Kirkland Highway Department for many years.

He was inducted into the New York State High School Hockey Coaches’ Association’s Hall of Fame in 1998 by a unanimous vote of the organization’s four-member selection committee.  He was the lone inductee that year. Association President Bill Plante cited Williams’ “outstanding credentials” for the honor.

Bob Williams passed away Dec. 15, 2000, one month short of his 92nd birthday.

Ironically, his passing came on the very day a ceremony in his honor was scheduled at the Clinton Arena. Prior to that evening’s Clinton High game, he was to be recognized for the fact that the team had dedicated its 2000-01 season to him.

The news of his death sent sadness through the crowd gathered at the Arena, and game announcer Jim Simpson led them in a moment of silence in Williams’ memory.

“As late as Wednesday of this week, Mr. Williams was planning to be here tonight for an official dedication ceremony and was looking forward to attending the first CCS hockey alumni reunion planned for later this month,” said Simpson.

Williams was the last surviving member of the first Clinton High School team.

His other community activities included driving a Clinton Central School bus for may years and memberships in the Clinton Fire Department Hose Company, Kiwanis Club and Skenandoa Club.

He was survived by his wife, two daughters, a son-in-law, six grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

He was predeceased by two sisters, Margaret and Ethel, and a brother, Perry.

·        

Bob was inducted into the New York State High School Hockey- Hall of Fame, March 1998, for his dedication to the sport as a truly great player who has contributed noteworthy service to New York State high school hockey.
 
 

The New York State High School Hockey- Hall of Fame, located in the Lake Placid Olympic Center's '80 Rink hallway,  recognizes former outstanding Players, Coaches and Teams that have contributed noteworthy service to New York State high school hockey.


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