White skates and ballerina moves made Barbara Williams a graceful figure on the ice. Her tomboy spirit led her to master speed skating. A chance encounter with New York Islanders star Bob Nystrom made her famous.
Williams, who became the first female power skating coach in the NHL when the Islanders hired her in 1977, became an integral part of an organization that won four Stanley Cups. The Kings Park resident was one of nine inductees into the Tuesday in Patchogue.
“I’m short, but on the ice I’m 10 feet tall,” said Williams, who still teaches at and in Kings Park. “I’m a terror.”
Williams made a career out of helping hockey players become more powerful and fluid on the ice. After her dynastic stint with the Islanders, she also coached the New Jersey Devils, four minor league hockey teams and tutored more than 200 pro players.
“Barbara Williams is the first female hockey coach in the history of the NHL,” Hall of Fame Executive Director Ed Morris said. “And we’re so proud of her because she’s from Kings Park.”
Young Williams saw an old Sonja Henie movie and was hooked. She won figure skating contests. But it wasn’t enough. Williams commuted from Manhasset to Flushing to speed skate as a teenager. Her youthful obsession became her life's work.
“I’ve skated every day of my life, since I was 5,” Williams said. “It’s such a passion that I have. God has given me a gift. I have endless energy. I could skate into tomorrow morning.”
She trained actor Robby Benson for the 1978 film “Ice Castles.” Her book, “More Power to Your Skating” was published in 1979.
Then came a shift. She moved on from training pro athletes to focus on grassroots efforts around the nation. Her new trajectory has taken her on a path toward activism.
“My joy and passion is working with children,” Williams said during her induction speech. “I train hundreds of children on Long Island. Their welfare is extremely important to me.”
As part of her induction, Williams went on to spotlight the need to give youth an outlet, citing skateboard parks as a way to alleviate the drug problem on Long Island. It had the crowd buzzing long after the event wrapped up. Williams always was a head turner.
The 21st Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame awards dinner is May 3 at the West Lake Inn in Patchogue. The Class of 2011 includes:
- Eric Brown: Suffolk CC-Ammerman baseball coach for 24 years.
- Don Buckley: St. Anthony’s athletic director and former track coach.
- Frank Catalanotto: Smithtown East grad who spent 14 seasons (1997-2010) in Major League baseball.
- Cathy Gallagher: Former head of Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk high school sports.
- Jesse Jantzen: Shoreham-Wading River grad and the first four-time state wrestling champion.
- Jim Mecir: Smithtown East grad who spent 11 seasons (1995-2005) in Major League baseball.
- Jeff Reh: Former Rocky Point standout in soccer and lacrosse. An Adelphi Hall of Famer.
- Scott Reh: Older brother and former Rocky Point star. Adelphi HOF and athletic director at Mount Sinai.
- Barbara Williams: Power skating instructor for the New York Islanders during the franchise’s Stanley Cup run. First female coach in the NHL.