The Palm Coast resident has been inducted into the New Jersey High School Ice Hockey Hall of Fame.
Billy Grum relates to the movie, "Happy Gilmore," and its hero of the same name. Golf is easy for a hockey player to master, Grum says, because hockey players are used to shooting a moving puck at full speed and from all kinds of angles. A golf ball, however, is stationary and sits on a tee.
Grum, a full-time Palm Coast resident since 2015, is a long driver like Happy Gilmore. He teaches long driving on the side when he's not helping his wife, Stacy, with their salon, Sparkle Hair Boutique. But Grum has made a name for himself in hockey, even if he hasn't always used that name in his hockey pursuits.
Grum was inducted into the New Jersey High School Ice Hockey Hall of Fame last month. Billy and Stacy, and their daughter, Flagler County Sheriff's Office communications specialist Astasia Grum, all attended the induction ceremony in West Orange, New Jersey, on May 1.
After a lifetime of playing and coaching hockey, Grum, 62, said the honor means "being a good citizen and having discipline and respect pays off in the long run."
In his junior and senior years, he led Livingston, New Jersey, High School to the state finals and led the state in scoring. He was named MVP of the New Jersey Scholastic Hockey League. He also won the Junior National Championship with the New Jersey Rockets in 1978, scoring the winning goal.
He went on to play in eight pro and semi-pro leagues. He scored 46 goals and had 77 points for the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League in 1979-80. He also played on the USHL All-Star team during a tour of Europe and led the team in scoring. He led Canton College to the Junior College National Championship in 1980-81 and was the top scorer in the national tournament.
"(The Hall of Fame honor means) being a good citizen and having discipline and respect pays off in the long run."
Grum met Stacy while playing for his final team, the Las Vegas Aces of the semi-pro Pacific Southwest Hockey League, before hanging up his skates in 1995. He returned to New Jersey, giving private lessons and coaching coach club hockey. He also coached the Governor Livingston High School team, taking the team to the state playoffs for the first time. His coaching career ended when he was tripped from behind on the ice and suffered a neck injury.
BILLY 'WHITE SKATES' JOHNSTON
Grum was a talented athlete who could kick a football out of the end zone as a middle schooler, he said. But his favorite sport was hockey. At age 6, he pulled a pair of old, white figure skates from a basement shelf and jumped on the ice of a frozen brook behind his house. His father said, "You better make those white skates fly."
At 6 feet, 220 pounds, he was deceptively fast on the ice, and showed what he could do in two NHL camps. In 1982, he led the New Jersey Devils in preseason scoring in exhibition and intra-squad games. As a free agent, he said he didn't make the team because of politics. Front office personnel didn't want to cut high-priced talent for a local kid.
"Nobody from New Jersey at that time got close to the NHL," Grum said.
He practiced with the New York Rangers the following year but didn't get invited to camp. In 1985, he suffered a displaced compound fracture in his left arm after colliding with a goalpost. Doctors told him he would never play again.
With enough screws and metal plates in his arm to build a washing machine, Grum called Minnesota North Stars assistant general manger Glen Sonmor and told him he was the coach for the Newark Sabres, and he had a kid on his team by the name of Billy Johnston "who could outskate, outscore and outfight anyone."
Billy Grum's name was known in hockey circles by this time, and so was his injury. But not many people knew him by face, so he used his mother's maiden name. A few months later, he walked into the North Stars' front office and told Sonmor's secretary that he was Billy Johnston, and he wanted to speak with Sonmor.
Sonmor remembered the name, spoke with him and worked him out with some University of Minnesota players. The assistant GM was impressed and offered "Johnston" a spot in training camp.
"In my first scrimmage, I played on a line with (first-line players) Keith Acton and Brian Lawton, and I scored three goals," Grum said.
"I just had bad luck. But it led me to give back to all the kids (as a coach)."
Having trouble finding skates that fit, Grum ordered a pair of white skates, and began to be known as Billy "White Skates" Johnston, a play off the nickname of then-NFL wide receiver, Billy "White Shoes" Johnson.
Defenseman Randy Velischek was later quoted as saying, "Nobody knew who he was, but he wasn't bad. If they hadn't had a surplus of forwards under contract, I think they would have signed him and sent him somewhere, because he was big and fast and could shoot the puck."
But about the same time as Grum decided to come clean, reporters began researching him and discovered who he was.
"Somebody doesn't just walk onto an NHL team and lead them in scoring," Grum said.
Grum said Sonmor told him what he did took a lot of guts, but they couldn't take a chance on Grum re-injuring his arm.
"I just had bad luck. But it led me to give back to all the kids (as a coach)," Grum said.
After his coaching career ended, he looked up legendary golfer Moe Norman, known as "Pipeline Moe" for his accuracy and ball-striking ability. Grum became a follower of Norman's single-axis swing.
"That's what got me to Florida," Grum said. "To see Moe Norman."
Grum still teaches golf with a hockey twist.
"Putting is like passing a hockey puck," he said.