When Tommy Williams broke into the Boston Bruins lineup during the 1962 season, he became the first American to play regularly in the NHL since his fellow enshrinee, Frank Brimsek, retired from the Chicago Blackhawks in April, of 1950. When his NHL career ended with the Washington Capitals in 1976, he stood at the top of the list of NHL American developed players in goals and points scored, with 115 goals and 253 points, respectively. The Duluth native was developed as a player by his father, Warren "Rip" Williams, who literally made the old clichÃ© "I taught him everything he knew," a living reality.
While starting in high school hockey at Duluth Central, the highly talented skater soon was playing in senior competition with men who were years his senior. He was a natural selection for the 1960 United States Olympic Team, when, as an 18-year old, played on a line with the fabled Christian brothers (also both enshrinees) of Warroad, MN. Williams assisted on Bill Christian's goal which defeated the Russians, 3-2, as the U.S. went on to win its first gold medal.
Originally intending to play college hockey at the University of Minnesota, the young Olympian was persuaded to try pro hockey. After a year and a half at Kingston, Ontario, of the old Eastern Pro League, he was called up to the parent Bruins.
"I can recall my first game with the Bruins," Williams was quoted saying, "We beat Chicago, 5-4, in Boston, and I scored two goals. I didnâ€™t sleep all night. Another highlight for me was once in the playoffs against Montreal when I was named the first star."
There were many more outstanding games for the versatile forward, who played all three up front positions, in his 16-year professional career. Williams saw service with Boston, Minnesota, California, and Washington in the NHL.
"I played before expansion," he said on his retirement. "I played hockey because I was good at it, and I was fortunate to do something for a long number of years that I enjoyed. How many guys can say they enjoyed a job for 16 years?" At that time, Williams remained as one of Minnesota's greatest all-time players. Unfortunately, Williams died on February 8, 1992 in Massachusetts.