The Passing of William E. McCormick

I write with the sad news that William E. McCormick, who was head coach of the Williams men’s ice hockey team for 35 seasons, has passed away. He died on July 30 in Spring Hill, Fla., at the age of 88.

Coach Mac, as he was called, came to Williams in 1953 to work as the freshman ice hockey coach, and became head coach the next season. During his distinguished career, he was elected president of the American Hockey Coaches Association and served as a member of the Ice Hockey Rules Committee of the NCAA. At the time of his retirement, he had coached longer at a single school than any of his peers. As a teacher, coach, skilled athlete and assistant athletic director he touched many lives.

Bill grew up in Hagersville, Ontario, Canada and learned to play hockey at an early age. Recruited by Michigan State University to play football, he opted instead to play ice hockey. He was MSU’s leading scorer for two seasons and was co-captain for two of his four years on the team. He went on to receive his master’s degree from MSU, as well. After he moved east, he continued to play with the Clinton (N.Y.) Comets, a semi-pro team. When not on the rink, Bill was very active in the Williamstown Boys Club.

At Williams, Coach Mac compiled a 317-331-20 record. More importantly, his record was 53-14 against Amherst. He was chosen New England Coach of the Year in 1961-62 when his 16-3-1 team beat Army, Brown, Cornell and Penn. I’m told that he only missed one practice in 35 years, and that one absence was only so he could be in Lake Placid Olympics for the U.S. Olympic Team’s 1980 “Miracle on Ice” upset over the Soviet team. Bill retired as our hockey coach in 1989, and the following year as assistant professor of physical education.

I think former Athletic Director Robert Peck said it best in a 1989 issue of the alumni magazine, when he said, “Bill McCormick is hockey at Williams.” One of Coach Mac’s former players told me that he was not only a terrific coach, but, more importantly, a wonderful man, and a role model and mentor for all who came in contact with him. Another former player told me Coach Mac changed the life of every player who had the honor of lacing up skates and playing for him. Bill loved his players, his teams and his sport. That love also fueled his work on the national level, where he was widely respected for his tireless efforts on behalf of smaller hockey-playing colleges.

Bill married his college sweetheart, Martha Ann Blanchard, who pre-deceased him in 2002. He is survived by two sons, James ’76 and John ’93; three daughters, Susan ’77, Nancy, and Erin; nine grandchildren; a brother, Robert; and two sisters, Patricia and Marylou.

The family is planning services for a later date.

Our thoughts are with Bill’s family and many friends.