By Mark Squibb | Vol. 12 No. 9 (May 2, 2019)
Southern Shore Arena renamed after the fellow who made hockey happen
A local hockey hero was given a fitting tribute Saturday, when the Southern Shore Arena was renamed in his honour.
Ken Williams has served the hockey community along the Southern Shore, the Goulds and across the province, for over 30 years. He helped usher in the creation of the arena, served as its respected and hard working manager, was elected the founding President of the Southern Shore Minor Hockey Association, helped revive female hockey in the province, helped found the Avalon West Senior Hockey League, and served as a Director of the Southern Shore Breakers Senior Club and President of the Southern Shore Amateur Hockey Association, amongst other roles.
In 2015, he was inducted into the Hockey NL Hall of Fame.
“We had a retirement party for him two years ago, and Loyola Sullivan said it best: ‘In the world of the NHL, Gordie Howe is known as Mr. Hockey, and on the Southern Shore, Kenny Williams is known as Mr. Hockey,’” said Luke Bidgood, chairman of the Ken Williams Southern Shore Arena’s board of directors. “You can’t sum it up better than that.”
Williams, known for his keen intelligence, sharp wit and colourful personality, will have been diagnosed with ASL, known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, three years this July.
The association has been doing it’s best to lend a helping hand, holding fundraisers such as an alumni game between the Flatrock Flyers and the Southern Shore Breakers on Saturday, April 27, and a Good Friday game between coaches in the Goulds and Southern Shore minor systems.
The decision to rechristen the rink to the Ken Williams Southern Shore Arena at the April 27 game was kept secret until the moment it was unveiled to a crowd of spectators, friends and family, and, of course, Williams himself.
“We passed it at a meeting, but we kept it all under wraps. There might have been 10 people who knew about it before we did it,” Bidgood told the Irish loop Post.
“The arena board had noted that on Saturday, they wanted to make sure the entire family who could be there was going to be there, because they had a special presentation for dad,” said Ken Williams Jr.
He said that after some short speeches were given, Bidgood announced that the committee had decided to rename the arena, and a banner was then unrolled before the crowd.
“When they opened it up, it said the ‘Ken Williams Southern Shore Arena,” said Williams. “It was just overwhelming… it brought a tear to a lot of people’s eyes.”
The association members unfurled the banner, so that “everybody in the building could be in the presence in that moment,” before heading outside to unveil the newly minted sign to the family.
Williams said that on the way into the arena none of the family members even noticed that the sign outside was partially covered up, simply because nobody had any reason to look up at it.
“Anyone that’s visited that arena, you would never pick that out in a million years,” he laughed. “You would never look up there, you’re just so used to it being there.”
Williams explained further that it’s important that the change was made while his dad could still appreciate the gesture.
“[That it was renamed] while he’s here with us and fully able to comprehend the full appreciation of what has been shown back to him, was just great,” said Williams. “The appreciation back to dad for his 30 plus years, they could not have shown it in a better way… It was overwhelming. Beyond words. You just can’t put a price tag on that. Words cannot explain the gratitude we have for everyone that made this possible.”
His father broke into tears when he saw the arena’s new name.
Williams said the family has received plenty of positive words form the community in the recent days.
“We’ve heard nothing but that there couldn’t be anybody more deserving than your dad,” he said.
The association continues to hold fundraisers for Williams, including an open mic benefit on Saturday, May 4, with admission by donation.
A trust fund has also been opened for him at the Witless Bay Credit Union, and online contributions can be made to email@example.com.
Bidgood says there isn’t an exact number tallied, but thousands of dollars have been raised thus far to help the family with the various equipment and care costs necessitated by ALS.
Meanwhile, Williams continues to do well.
“His attitude is very, very positive,” said his son. “It’s his acceptance of the disease, his positiveness, and his will to go on, that’s why he’s doing so well with it today.”