With training camp nearing, the Icemen’s on-ice roster is almost complete. Some new names will appear on the back of Icemen sweaters, while old names will be appearing for the first time somewhere else. On Friday, the team announced that recently retired veteran net presence Charles Williams will be joining the front office staff. Williams will become the Icemen’s Director of Community Hockey Development and will also serve as the team’s goaltending coach.
Life After Hockey
The seasoned goaltender announced his retirement in June after serving as the Icemen’s primary starting goalie for the previous three seasons. His professional career began in 2016 with the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL after wrapping up his senior season of college hockey at Canisius College. In seven professional seasons, he garnered 203 regular season games of ECHL experience, playing 82 of them for Jacksonville – making him the goalie with the most starts (to date) in an Icemen uniform. He also made 30 postseason starts over the course of his career, minding the net in Jacksonville for ten playoff games. Additionally, he also played in eight games at the AHL level.
Awarded the honor of Unsung Hero by his teammates for the 2022-23 season, Williams only served in a limited role in net last season – leading more off the ice rather than actively on it. With a trio of goaltenders to work with, the Icemen saw the veteran take a role in mentoring the two other goalies, Olof Lindbom and Parker Gahagen, as they took on a larger workload. Playing in just 15 games during the season, Williams went 9-5-1 and ended the year with a .926 save percentage. In a podcast interview back in May, Williams spoke about preparing for a life after hockey and how he would stay involved in the sport after retirement. “My dream is to be able to talk with athletes, not about the game, but in your head. Beyond the mask, so to speak, “ Williams said. When commenting on roles he’d like to transition to, he shared, “For me, it would be more so mental skills, performance coach, goalie coach, or goalie consultant.” However, he expressed a desire to not leave the River City, stating that when it comes to Head Coach Nick Luukko, “He knows, for me, it’s Jax or nothing.” Now joining the team as the new goaltending coach, it certainly seems that the goalie godfather won’t be straying too far away from home turf.
In addition to the new spot on the coaching roster, Williams will also be taking on the role of Director of Community Hockey Development. In the new front office role Williams will be in charge of helping the Icemen grow the sport of hockey across North Florida, as well as the Icemen brand. By working with community leaders and outreach projects, the Icemen are looking to their experienced netminder to drive initiatives to grow the game of hockey within the local community. He will also be partnering with the Icemen to help promote the Community First Igloo, the local indoor ice rink recently revamped by the Icemen organization. Williams will be serving as a youth hockey coach at the Igloo alongside his role with the team.
Speaking on the addition of Williams to the Icemen front office, team president Bob Orhablo said, “We appreciate all of the effort that Charles has given the team as a player on the ice, and now we look forward to him joining our front office. Charles has been admired by our fan base for the past three seasons, and there is no doubt he will be a great representative of our team in the community.” Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Nick Luukko commented on his addition to the coaching staff, saying, “Charles had an unbelievable career, and we’re excited for the next chapter for him. Not only is he one of the all-time great guys, but he also has a great mind for the game, especially at the goaltending position.”
Although losing Williams to retirement isn’t exactly the news Icemen fans may have wanted to hear in the offseason, it is excellent to see him staying on with the team in some capacity. Charles Williams is a no-brainer pick for a role responsible for growing the game and Icemen brand. Beloved by those that rock the blue and black, the fans have shown him the same appreciation and love he has shown the organization and the city. Perhaps being one of the only goaltenders to dress for two pro games in the same day, his experience also provides the team with some valuable hockey knowledge from the bench. Williams’ addition to the front office and coaching staff is a great move for both the team and the hockey community on the First Coast. There’s also the peace of mind knowing if ever the need arises, the Icemen will have a solid EBUG (emergency backup goalie) around.