World-class athletes love to challenge their teammates when it comes to their various talents — and those questioned love to prove a point. Therefore, when the U.S. Women’s National Team was preparing for a game one day, Karyn Bye felt the need to prod Katie King Crowley.
Bye knew King Crowley was a “softball stud” growing up in Salem, New Hampshire, and she wanted to see proof of it herself.
“I don’t remember what town we were in, but the locker room we were in was long and narrow,” Bye said. “In fact, it was so narrow that when we were putting our skates on, we were literally touching the people sitting across from us. And I looked at Kinger and I said, ‘Come on, Kinger. Show me your best throw as a pitcher.’”
King Crowley took an orange and underhand pitched it from one end of the locker room to the other, obliterating it into a brick wall.
“It may not sound very funny, but for whatever reason, it was the funniest thing ever,” Bye said. “It was like she hadn’t lost a step. Completely just stepped up and let that thing fly. She’s just a very athletic person.”
In addition to her stellar collegiate hockey career, King Crowley played softball at Brown University and was the Ivy League Player of the Year in 1996 and Ivy League Pitcher of the Year in 1997.
That athleticism, combined with a powerful presence on the ice, were the hallmarks of a 10-year career with the U.S. Women’s National Team, which included the team’s first Olympic gold medal in 1998 and the first U.S. gold at the IIHF Women’s World Championship in 2005. King Crowley also has Olympic silver and bronze medals on her resume, as well as five more silvermedals at the World Championship. Her 14 goals in the Olympics are tied for the most in U.S. history and her 278 points (153 goals, 125 assists) are the third-most by a U.S. Women’s National Team player.
All of that has culminated with King Crowley being part of the 2023 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame class that will be inducted Dec. 6 in Boston. She goes into the Hall with Dustin Brown, Brian Burke, Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Murphy. At the ceremony, 2023 Lester Patrick Trophy winner Joe Bertagna will also be honored.
King Crowley is obviously more than an orange thrower, but that is just one way she provided leadership when she played for Team USA.
“I would say she is probably everybody’s favorite teammate,” said A.J. Mleczko, who won gold with King Crowley in 1998. “She’s hilarious. She’s got the best laugh in the world and makes you feel like you’re hilarious. For a long time, I thought I was really funny, and I realized it was just Kinger laughing at my jokes.”
Mleczko said she always knew King Crowley had her back on and off the ice. When they were playing together, Mleczko marveled at King Crowley’s competitiveness.
“She worked her tail off on the ice,” Mleczko said. “She was fierce. But there was a lightness about her, too, that made her just phenomenal around the locker room as a leader.”
Following her playing career, King Crowley has remained in a leadership role. She’s in her 17th season as the head coach of the Boston College women’s hockey team, and has guided the Eagles to six NCAA Frozen Fours and produced eight U.S. Olympians. Courtney Kennedy, a two-time Olympian, is the team’s associate head coach.
When Bye’s daughter, Tatum, was deciding where to go to college, she went on a tour of the BC campus with King Crowley and Kennedy and eventually decided to commit there. While she’s not a hockey player, Tatum asked about becoming a team manager and King Crowley happily took Tatum up on her offer. Tatum is now a junior at BC and still a team manager.
Those are the softer sides of the person known as “Big Train” during her playing days, which was a well-deserved nickname.
“She was always incredibly strong,” Mleczko said. “She would just take the puck down the left side, and she was really hard to stop, just in terms of her north-south power. ‘Choo-choo!’ That’s what we’d always say. ‘Here comes the Big Train!’”
This past February marked the 25th anniversary of that 1998 team — which included King Crowley, Bye and Mleczko — winning the gold medal in the Olympic debut of women’s hockey. In June, 18 of the 20 players got together to reminisce about that history-making moment and swap stories. For some on that team, such as King Crowley, their accomplishments and what it means to USA Hockey are everlasting.
“She’s a Hall of Famer because she has just taken women’s hockey to another level,” Bye said. “She just continues to use her knowledge and her experiences to give back to others. There’s no question she deserves to be in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame by everything she’s given to the sport and what she continues to get back.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.