Throughout her career, Katie King Crowley’s balancing acts have put her in rare company.
Crowley, Boston College’s women’s hockey coach since 2007, was a Division 1 two-sport athlete at an Ivy League institution, which is the collegiate equivalent of spinning plates with each hand and on the top of your head and not letting any fall.
She started her head coaching career as one of the few women in such a position nationally. Even today, with six of the 10 Hockey East schools having female head coaches, Crowley sticks out as one of the few active head coaches in the sport who is also a mother.
These balancing acts, combined with three US Olympic team appearances, amount to a career that has her being inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame Wednesday at the Westin Copley Place — even if that career is far from over.
“I’ve been very fortunate to play with lots of great teammates and have had great coaches and have had people in my life that have helped me get to this point to be able to accept this award,” said Crowley.
“Katie, she was a rarity,” said her Olympic coach, Ben Smith. “And to me, quite obviously, she is the all-time best left wing in US women’s hockey.”
Crowley grew up in Salem, N.H., where she was a dynamic three-sport athlete for Salem High School. Her talents in field hockey, basketball, and softball were the talk of the school, but ice hockey was her first love. Softball was a very close second, and with that in mind, she committed to play both at Brown.
“When I played through high school, we had a really good [softball] team and I just really loved playing the sport just as much as I loved playing hockey,” said Crowley. “When I went into college, I knew I wanted to go somewhere where I could try to play both, and I knew it would certainly be a challenge.”
Playing under legendary Brown women’s hockey coach Digit Murphy, Crowley set records thatstill stand 26 years later. In 100 career games, she compiled 123 goals and 83 assists, was a three-time Ivy League Player of the Year, and the 1997 ECAC Player of the Year.
Crowley equaled that success on the softball field, becoming Brown’s go-to pitcher. She holds school records for appearances (120) and innings (709), and was the Ivy League Pitcher of the Year in 1996 and Player of the Year in 1997.
Playing two sports was far from easy, and there were times when some questioned her dedication to either sport. But for Crowley, having softball to turn to was important.
“I just enjoyed being on the field,” said Crowley. “Probably because it was outdoors and in the sun and maybe a little bit opposite of hockey in that respect. I was using different muscles and using different parts of my body. I think the two complemented each other well in that respect.”
Her on-ice career at Brown built a case for her inclusion on the first-ever US Olympic women’s hockey team for the 1998 Nagano Games. For Smith, Crowley was an obvious choice. He was wowed by the way she played.
“Her speed and strength were her greatest attributes,” said Smith. “She was probably the first woman’s power forward.
“I’m getting into my coaching theories here, but there are actually four different wing positions in my mind: left-shot right wing, right-shot right wing, left-shot left wing, and right-shot left wing. Katie was the left-shot left wing, and I think of the four, that’s the most difficult position to score from.”
From what Smith saw as the most difficult position on the ice, Crowley racked up 153 goals and 125 assists in 223 games with the national team. That included 14 goals over three Olympics — still the best tally by a US player — and 23 Olympic points. She also has a full set of Olympic medals: gold in 1998, silver in 2002, and bronze in 2006.
In 2003, Crowley took an assistant coaching job at BC, which was then a decade-old program on the rise. By 2006-07, the team had made its first Frozen Four. After a controversy with then-coach Tom Mutch arose in 2007, leading to his resignation, Crowley was tapped as BC’s new leader.
Her coaching success seemed to follow the trajectory of her playing career. Over the past 17 seasons, the Eagles have made the NCAA Tournament 11 times, advancing to the Frozen Four in six. They have won five Hockey East regular-season titles and three Hockey East championships. She has twice been named AHCA National Coach of the Year and is a four-time Hockey East Coach of the Year.
Her 2015-16 team was one of the best squads in college hockey history, going 40-0 before losing in the national title game to Minnesota. After the loss, trying to keep herself together despite the disappointment, Crowley brought her almost-3-year-old daughter, Camryn, to the podium. Camryn tried cheering up both her mom and BC forward Andie Anastos, becoming one of the defining moments of the weekend.
While softball and hockey were Crowley’s balancing act in the 1990s, her current one is being a coach and a mom. There was no doubt she was going to combine them because she saw Murphy, her college coach, do so.
“I saw her raise her kids and I knew her kids well and still do,” said Crowley. “It was a really cool thing back then seeing that, especially in a world where especially there weren’t many female coaches.”
She hopes she can be her own example for both her daughter and players.
“It’s special for our kids to see that,” said Crowley. “That their moms can work jobs where maybe they’re gone for a few days and then come back and still be Mom. They can realize that they can reach for any dreams that they have in the working world, and do what they love and still be able to have a family.”
The Eagles have worked through a few up-and-down years, and Crowley says she has amended how she coaches as the years go on. She is hopeful that BC can make it back to success soon.
“I remember that day well when we lost the title game and Camryn came up with me on the stand,” said Crowley. “Hopefully we get back there, and she can come back up. She definitely would have a lot more to say nowadays.”
Kat Cornetta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.