June 24, 2005
Postcard: Missing Passion

By Jess Myers

Folks who covered hockey in the WCHA in the 1990s knew Bill Crumley, or at least knew of him. His official titles ranged from hockey sports information director to, later, director of media relations for the University of Minnesota. But unofficially he was among the most passionate fans the Golden Gopher nation has ever had.

In a business where cheering is officially verboten in the pressbox, Bill never felt the need to keep his feelings locked inside. He did all of the job's official duties (writing press releases, arranging interviews, blah, blah, blah) with competence and all of the professionalism you'd expect from someone trained in the business. But he brought another dimension to the press box that was either charming or infuriating, depending where your loyalties lay.

In a business where so many successful people have adopted a dispassionate, even robotic style, Bill was not bashful about letting fly if he felt his team was being mistreated either by a referee or an official scorer.

Those who witnessed it will likely never forget his trip through the jubilant handshake line after Minnesota's overtime victory over St. Cloud State in the 1994 WCHA Playoff Championship game. Some remember it as a shocking breach of professional conduct. And indeed, when the 1994-95 season began, Bill was no longer the team's hockey SID.

Others, however, remember the smile.

Bill Crumley was blessed with a toothy grin and was not afraid to use it, either after a big win by his team, or after a funny story at a post-game gathering where beers and goodwill flowed freely.

A few years ago, Bill left the U of M and went to work as the p.r. man for a posh northern Minnesota resort. The rumors were that a football coach known for his detached nature had no time for Bill's passion, and pushed him out the door. Undoubtedly with that toothy grin in tow, Bill headed north to the good life, living near woods and lakes, golfing and fishing when he could and raising his two children to love the slower pace of small town life.

He was last seen in a boat on that lake on Wednesday. That afternoon Bill's boat was found, but he was not in it. It was not until a day later that Bill's body was discovered, not far from the boat he'd left empty. He was 43, and is survived by his wife and two children.

For so many, the most prominent memory of Bill will always be that smile. If there’s a Gopher fan club in whatever comes after this life, we’d like to think it has a new president in place by now.

Be well Bill, and thanks for the smiles. When you see Herbie, tell him we said hello.

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