A Family Affair: The McCreary's


A Family Affair: The McCreary's

Bill McCreary Sr. coaching the California Golden Seals

By: James Jackson

April 8, 2020


McCreary, a name synonymous with hockey. From Tier II junior hockey to the Hockey Hall of Fame, the McCreary family has been all over the hockey world. It all started with Bill McCreary Sr. and his brother Keith McCreary who both played in the NHL. Keith played for the Canadiens, Penguins and Flames throughout his career and has his Flames jersey on display at the Hockey Hall of Fame.


Bill Sr. played for the Rangers, Red Wings, Canadiens and Blues throughout his time in the NHL. Ron Atwell (who played 22 games in the NHL) was Bill’s brother-in-law. Atwell would have a son Bob who would go on to play 22 games in the NHL with the Colorado Rockies.


In 1960, Bill Sr. had a son, Bill McCreary Jr., who found his way to the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Many would remember Bill Jr. for hitting Wayne Gretzky early on in his career, it was the first big hit of Gretzky’s career. 


Greg Theberge married into the family, Theberge played 153 games with the Washington Capitals. Theberge had a son Brett, who played in the OHL.


In 1982, Bill Jr. had a son, Billy McCreary III. McCreary played as high as the SPHL, winning the Presidents Cup with the Huntsville Havoc. Billy currently is the Head Coach/GM of the Danbury Hat Tricks in the FPHL. Billy was named 2020 FPHL Coach of the Year in his first season as a head coach.


Billy’s cousin Ryan Dickinson was playing for the Shreveport Mud Bugs this season. Dickinson committed to Ohio State University. 


There is also another Bill McCreary, the referee who is Billy’s second cousin, was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014. He has a son, Mike McCreary who was an on-ice official in the SPHL, ECHL and AHL. 


Billy McCreary says being a family is a lot like having a team


“I come from a very tight knit family. Hard work, being a good teammate and doing the right thing were standards we have to live by on a daily basis. I was so fortunate to learn from some of the best teammates the game has ever seen.


“My grandfathers, uncles and certainly my father show me that every person, no matter how different they are from me, plays a major role within the team's success.” McCreary said. “Treating people with respect, living with love in your heart and being a part of something bigger than yourself is something I saw my family live in the game and that also reflected in their family lives and lives away from the game.”


McCreary shared a story of his father from his time with the Maple Leafs. 


“When my father, who was a forward, was called up to play his first game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, they asked him to play Defense. He phoned his dad to tell him the news and my grandfather's reply was simply this, “if they ask you to be a ditch digger, be the best damn ditch digger they have ever seen.” 


“Having been a forward my whole life, then switching to D at the pro levell, and now being a coach and GM, I simply strive to not be outworked in whatever role I play within our team. Every day in the rink is a blessing and it is a goal of mine for everyone in our organization to feel like they play a major part in our success as a whole, and ultimately our success as a family.”