Bill Thayer was born in the Norwood section of Warwick on December 1st, 1921. He was easily one of the greatest all-around RI athletes of his generation. He earned All-State honors for all 3 years in 3 sports – hockey, baseball and football – to this day, one of the very few times that has ever been accomplished in Rhode Island. His athleticism was most evident as a standout defenseman on the Aldrich High School hockey team.
After high school, Thayer continued to display his extraordinary abilities starring in the regional amateur circuits of all 3 sports, especially hockey.
He began a professional career in 1943 at age 22 when he became the first native Rhode Islander to be signed by the Providence Reds, suiting up for seven games. He split the rest of his playing time that season between the New Haven Crescents of the Eastern Hockey League and the Boston Olympics.
In 1948, Thayer earned a prestigious spot on the USA National Team, which would go on to win the bronze medal in the 1949 IIHF World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden. Also starring on that team was fellow Rhode Islander and close friend, Gerry Kilmartin.
As a warm-up to the World Championships, Bill manned the blueline for a grueling tour of 48 games in the States and throughout Europe. Nicknamed “playmaker”, he lived up to his moniker, racking up 19 points on 5 goals and 14 assists. He would go on to tally 2 assists in the United States’ 8 games in the Worlds.
On his return to the States, Thayer joined Lou Pieri’s RI Scarlets, helping them to the Atlantic Hockey League crown and then the American Hockey Association’s national title in Detroit, where he was named to the All-Tournament team.
Following his hockey career, Bill turned to coaching, donating his experience and time to youth programs, primarily in Warwick and Cranston. A member of the RI Gridiron Club, he officiated local football for 15 years during which time he served as President of the RI Football Officials Association.
An ironworker by trade, at the very young age of 43, Bill passed away in a tragic accident during the construction of the New Bedford hurricane barrier in 1964. In honor of his accomplishments both on the ice and as a person, the city or Warwick dedicated its new municipal hockey rink the William H. Thayer Memorial Arena in 1970.
Since 1965, the William H. Thayer Award, named in honor of the “playmaker”, has been presented to the outstanding RI high school hockey player scoring the most assists in the season.