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He has had a long career in pro hockey, but only won his first championship after taking over as the Newfoundland Growlers' assistant coach mid-season
Darryl Williams played 10 years of pro hockey, made a couple of appearances with the 1992-93 Los Angeles Kings, and worked another 10 seasons as an NHL assistant in Vancouver and with the New York Rangers.
Yet the Newfoundland Growlers’ ECHL championship win this week at Mile One Centre ranks right up there with anything the Mount Pearl product has accomplished at the hockey rink.
“I came close to winning as a player (his 1997-98 Long Beach IceDogs reached the International Hockey League’s Eastern Conference final), and I came close as a coach (the 2011 Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins), but this is my first championship,” Williams said.
“And I tell you what, it means everything.”
“I came close to winning as a player and I came close as a coach, but this is my first championship. And I tell you what, it means everything.” — Darry Williams
It’s been an improbable run for Williams, who was let go by the Rangers at the end of last season, a day after New York fired coach Alain Vigneault.
While waiting for his next job offer, Williams kept busy at home this season, helping coach his son’s high school team (the Prince of Wales Collegiate Cavaliers) and major midget squad (Tri-Pen Osprey).
He was enjoying both roles when a call came in early December.
Growlers coach Ryane Clowe was sidelined with lingering concussion issues, and with assistant John Snowden moving up to take over the head coaching duties, the Growlers needed someone to replace Snowden.
Enter Williams, with a deep resume who just happens to be a resident of St. John’s.
Williams helped out Snowden for four games until Clowe’s return. Then, in late January, it was announced Clowe was resigning because of health issues, and Snowden was taking over as head coach.
Which meant Williams was back again as an assistant, and this time he was all-in for the remainder of the season.
“This year has been absolutely amazing,” said the Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador Hall of Famer. “I cannot say enough about the kids on this team. They are resilient, they played for each other every single game. I’ve never seen a team so united as these guys.
“It’s unbelievable. And as a coach, it’s a pleasure to be around them. You come to work every day, and it’s fun. They’re eager, they want to learn, they’re coachable, and they learned. When they did things the wrong way, they wanted to do it the right way.
“And give them credit. Boy, did they play hard.”
Vigneault, for whom Williams worked in both Vancouver and New York, was recently named the Philadelphia Flyers head coach and his assistant slate filled out with former NHL head coaches Michel Therrien and Mike Yeo, and returnee Ian Laperriere.
So if nothing develops over the summer with regards to NHL or AHL employment, would Williams consider another year in St. John’s with the Growlers.
“Ah, that’s in the future,” he smiled. “I just want to enjoy this now.”
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