BC hockey coach Jerry York sets mark for Division 1 victories
By Nancy Marrapese-Burrell
Globe Staff / December 29, 2012
MINNEAPOLIS — As Boston College’s Jerry York closed in on the record for most victories by an NCAA Division 1 hockey coach, he was asked frequently about the achievement.
He began the 2012-13 season at 913, needing just 11 to tie the mark held by Ron Mason. But York deflected the attention, focusing instead on team goals.
Although his players praised the job he did, molding the Eagles into a consistent contender, they, too, reflected York’s philosophy that no single person is greater than the whole.
But on Saturday afternoon, in front of a sparse crowd at Mariucci Arena that was nearly all Minnesota fans arriving early to wait for the Gophers to play the nightcap of the Mariucci Classic against Air Force, York won his 925th game to surpass Mason as the top-ranked Eagles beat Alabama-Huntsville, 5-2.
York had tied the mark against archrival Boston University Dec. 1.
York, whose team improved to 12-2-1, said it’s the type of achievement he will reflect on long down the road.
“Maybe when I sit down on some porch in 10 years thinking about it,’’ said York. “I’ve always been about team. When I was a player, I was like that. As a coach, I’ve been like that, so I haven’t really sought individual goals.
“I remember Brian Gionta in between [games of] a Frozen Four in 2001, they announced the Hobey Baker winner. We had just beaten Michigan and we were going to play North Dakota. The people came down to tell me [that Gionta wasn’t going to win]. You could tell I was upset that he wasn’t going to be a Hobey Baker winner and he said, ‘Hey Coach, I came here for one trophy.’
“I kind of feel the same way. I want to win major trophies for the team.’’
The Eagles have plenty of them under his guidance. York led BC to NCAA championships in 2001, 2008, 2010, and 2012, in addition to the one he earned with Bowling Green in 1984.
BC has been to 10 Frozen Fours during York’s tenure, including eight in the last 13 years.
He has helped the school capture nine Hockey East titles, with six in the last eight seasons.
No matter how much he wins, he is never satisfied until his next team adds to the vast trophy collection at The Heights.
As much as he is known for hockey knowledge, York brings an unbridled enthusiasm for the sport. Whether it’s pond hockey, a midseason game at Frozen Fenway Park, the Beanpot tournament, the Hockey East tournament, or the NCAA tournament, York is game to go.
“I was so surprised my freshman year,’’ said BC captain Pat Mullane. “The first practice of the year, I was obviously extremely excited, but he was twice as excited as anyone on the ice. It was the same my freshman year as senior year. A rainy, cold day in January, he’s still the most excited guy coming into the locker room.
“This year hasn’t changed. He is still the same optimistic, calm, composed Jerry York that I knew freshman year.’’
As much as he was asked about York approaching the record, Mullane said it was never a distraction for the team.
“It was almost the opposite,’’ said Mullane. “I think it motivated us. He’s given us a great opportunity to play for Boston College, and everyone in the room understood that we owed it to him to get it for him as soon as possible. It’s very special to be a part of.’’
BC was operating shorthanded Saturday, particularly on the blue line. Defenseman Isaac MacLeod, who suffered a shoulder injury in the last game of the semester Dec. 7, was expected to return but wasn’t ready. Senior Patch Alber was a late scratch with a knee injury.
The Eagles were also without top scorer Johnny Gaudreau, who is playing in the World Junior Tournament in Russia.
The Eagles jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening period on nine shots.
At 2:53, BC started the flurry when sophomore left wing Cam Spiro beat senior goalie John Griggs on a backhander. It was his first career goal in his seventh college game.
Junior center Bill Arnold doubled the lead at 11:15, tapping in a backhander from outside the left post with Griggs down and out.
Sophomore right wing Danny Linell potted his second of the year, off the rush with a shot from just outside the left post, to make it 3-0.
The Eagles chased Griggs at 1:23 of the second on a goal that was the result of an unfortunate bounce. Freshman right wing Brendan Silk took a shot from the left side and it caromed off Chargers defenseman Anderson White in front and sailed into the net for Silk’s second goal.
Alabama-Huntsville (3-15-1) broke through at 5:38 of the second during a power play to make it 4-1. Whitney closed BC’s offensive output at 9:08 of the third, and the Chargers added a late goal.
After the final horn sounded, the public address announcer acknowledged the record and the small crowd responded with a warm round of applause. York just held up his notebook in acknowledgement, then moved off the bench to the dressing room. After all, there are many more team goals to reach.
“Our kids are excited about winning games, we play to win trophies,’’ said York. “Our mind-set was to start the second half of the year and chase trophies and there is one available here tomorrow night.’’
The legend becomes the leader: A retrospective on Boston College coach Jerry York’s career
'College hockey's gentleman' is also its winningest coach after earning No. 925, passing Ron Mason.
By Jim Connelly • Senior Writer • Dec. 29, 2012
There probably isn’t anyone on the 1972-73 University of Quebec men’s hockey team who remembers being on the wrong end of a 13-0 loss against Clarkson. Same goes for the 1996-97 St. Lawrence team that lost to Boston College 6-4.
That, though, won’t be said for the Boston University team that fell to BC 5-2 on Dec. 1. Or for the Alabama-Huntsville team that lost 5-2 to the Eagles on Saturday at the Mariucci Classic.
All of those teams are now strung together by a common bond: being victims of major milestone victories for Boston College coach Jerry York, who in early December beat rival Boston University to tie the all-time wins mark held by Ron Mason of 924 wins. It took 27 days before the Eagles earned their next win, thanks to a Providence team that scored with 10.5 seconds left in regulation on Dec. 7 to earn a 3-3 tie right before the holiday break.
But Saturday’s win over Alabama-Huntsville ended a long wait, even if it was somewhat unceremonious (and as you’ll read, that’s just how York likes it). Win No. 925 is his, making York the king of college hockey coaches.
It was Quebec that provided York’s first win as he began his coaching career at Clarkson. (Games against teams that now would be considered exhibition foes then counted toward a team’s record.) St. Lawrence was York’s 500th victim. And for the 923 other victories, there are plenty of stories, memories and laughs to fill a full novel.
Here, though, we’ll keep it simple as we take a retrospective look at one of college hockey’s legends.
A modest beginning
York likely will be most remembered for his legacy at Boston College, including six Hockey East regular season titles, nine league postseason titles, 12 NCAA tournament appearances, 10 Frozen Fours, seven national title game appearances and, of course, four national titles.
But it was humble beginnings at Clarkson in Canton, N.Y., that started this legendary coaching career.
In seven years, things didn’t exactly come easy for York and his club. The apex at Clarkson came in 1977 when York’s club captured the ECAC championship. Little did anyone know that the hardware and championship ring would be the first of many.
Deciding to take a step forward in 1979, York headed to the CCHA to coach what he hoped would become an upstart Bowling Green team. After two seasons of building the program, York won three straight CCHA titles in 1982, ’83 and ’84.
It was that ’84 team that, of course, will stand out in York’s mind. That was York’s first NCAA champion, a team he continually references as the “blueprint” for every future team.
That blueprint has manifested itself most at York’s alma mater, where he took over a program in turmoil in 1994. The rest, as they say, is history, all of which has made him a hometown legend.
The hidden Boston legend
York is easily recognizable on the Boston sports scene. Despite the town featuring names like Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Belichick, Stanley Cup champion coach Claude Julien and NBA champion coach Doc Rivers, York, with four national titles since 2001, has all three trumped in the ring department. You’d never know that, though, by following him around on a daily basis.
York resides in his childhood home in Watertown, Mass., just minutes from the Boston College campus. On the average morning you can find him at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Watertown Square. If you don’t see him there, possibly you’ll find him on campus at the chapel or St. Ignatius Church, where he attends daily mass.
“It is kind of like a throwback to the ’50s, kind of an old values type of thing,” Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna says.
Truth is, York doesn’t like the limelight. While anyone who knows him uses words like “fiercely competitive” to describe the 19-year veteran behind the BC bench, York shies away from anything that places him at the center of attention.
Bertagna should know. He recalls having to introduce him a few years back when York received the Ace Bailey “Good Guy” award. While Bertagna waxed poetic about the great career that York had enjoyed, the coaching veteran wanted nothing of it.
“I wasn’t halfway through what I was going to say and he was already making his way up to the podium and standing there like he wanted to get that part over with,” Bertagna says.
That’s Jerry York. He always wants everyone else to get the credit. As his Eagles have won a number of national titles — including three of the last five — the procedure for presenting the NCAA championship trophy has gradually morphed. Gone are the days of handing it to the captains. Now ESPN makes a production of handing it to the head coach.
While York obliges, the trophy sometimes looks like a hot potato once the cameras go off. The first second possible, York hands it off to his captain and then sits back near the bench with his coaches to watch the team celebrate.
“He’s constantly thinking about other people,” recalls Bertagna, who says there is one consistency for the morning after each year’s Hockey East tournament: a text message from York thanking Bertagna and his staff for running a first-class event.
“I look at the time of the message and sometimes it’s right before the [NCAA] selection show, or maybe it’s even during the show,” Bertagna says.
College hockey’s gentleman
York’s demeanor has often earned him the title of “college hockey’s gentleman.” Almost always calm and mild-mannered, it’s rare that you’ll ever hear York complain. And if he does, you know you should listen.
“Jerry is one of the coaches that if he raises a question, there’s probably some merit to it,” says Frank Cole, a longtime Hockey East official who now is the NCAA’s coordinator of officiating. “He’s not a chronic complainer. He keeps his players composed and focused on the job at hand.”
“I don’t hear from him very much throughout the year in terms of [complaints about] officials, so in turn when I do hear from him, I’ll be the first to admit it gets my attention even more,” Bertagna says. “It has to be something fairly extreme for him to pick up the phone and make a call.”
The gentlemanly image of the coach certainly rubs off on his players. Countless stories are told of York’s players acting much like the head coach. One though has to wonder, is that a product of what the players learn from the mentor, or the type of player York and his staff bring to Chestnut Hill?
“All coaches have to go after a certain type of kid that fits the [hockey] formula, whether it be speed or things like that, but I’m not the first to wonder that BC always has very nice kids,” Bertagna says. “Do they feed off the coach or are those the type of kids they recruit?”
Associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh, who has been with York for all 19 seasons while at BC and a previous season at Bowling Green, says he’s never felt the need to recruit a Jerry York-type player.
For him, it’s always been about recruiting a player who fits what he calls part of the “BC fabric.”
“That’s how Jerry wants us to think about it: He doesn’t need to be a Jerry York type of guy, he needs to be a Boston College type of guy,” Cavanaugh says. “We have our mission here that we’re going to challenge you to go to school, to be terrific in the community and as a hockey player. But that has to evolve over time. We have to continue getting better.”
Respect of the rival
The college hockey rivalry between Boston College and Boston University could be the most intense in the nation. The two schools are separated by less than four miles and the local transit line, the “T,” runs directly between both campuses, making both venues easy access for one another.
That was on display last weekend when BU and BC squared off, the wins record on the line. Days before the series, BU coach Jack Parker said that he was happy for York that he, inevitably, would break the record. But he also said he didn’t want it to happen against BU.
Parker got half his wish as BU won Friday at home. A loss on Saturday gave York the record-tying win, but Parker still took consolation.
“I just said congratulations on tying the record,” Parker says when asked to share what he told York after Saturday’s game. “I will call him now and congratulate him when he gets [the next] W. I’m just glad I didn’t have to do it on the ice.”
All of that said, Parker went on unsolicited to talk more about York.
“It’s hard for people to believe this because he’s been around for so long, he’s been so successful and he’s won so many games, but I still don’t think he gets the credit he deserves,” Parker says.
“He’s a very good coach who’s run great programs at three different places and has done an unbelievable job of making [BC] the best it’s ever been. This is a place where they’ve had two other coaches who have won 500 games. This place has had a lot of good hockey for a long, long time. And he’s the best they’ve ever had here.”
The toughest battle
While York might be able to talk for hours about his team’s biggest games on the ice, perhaps the biggest battle York has won was one with cancer in the summer of 2005. During a routine physical, doctors discovered that York had an abnormal blood count.
Follow up tests revealed early stages of prostate cancer. Little was said publicly. Before most even knew of it, York had surgery to remove his prostate and since then has been cancer-free.
That doesn’t mean that he didn’t have concerns, as Cavanaugh recounted in a somewhat comical story.
“When Jerry first got diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was in the summer,” Cavanaugh says. “We were recruiting a boy out of Minnesota. I told him I’d go with him on the visit so he didn’t have to go alone.
“So we fly out to Minnesota and we’re staying at the St. Paul Hotel. We go up to visit the boy, we come home and park the car and we’re walking into the hotel.
“His operation was about two weeks out. We’re walking in and Jerry says to me, ‘How do you think the visit went?’ I said, ‘I think it went well.’ He says, ‘Do you think we can get him?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, if Minnesota gets involved, it will be tough to beat them.’”
It was the words out of York’s mouth next that shocked Cavanaugh.
“He said, ‘Cav, look at the bar in that hotel.’
“I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Look at the bar in that hotel. You can’t walk by a bar like that without going in and having a beer.’”
Those who have been around York know that he’s not one to drink alcohol much, particularly beer. Cavanaugh says he may have a glass of red wine with dinner on occasion, but beer is almost never his drink of choice. “I could count the number of beers he’d had on one hand,” Cavanaugh says.
“So I looked at him and said, ‘Are you serious?’ And he says, ‘Yeah, what a terrific bar this is.’”
It was then that it hit Cavanaugh that maybe York wanted more to spend the time together fearing the worst from cancer than he really cared about having a beer at a fancy bar.
“I looked him and said, ‘Jerry, you know you’re going to beat this cancer. You’re going to be OK,’” Cavanaugh says.
“I get a kick out of it because at the time I think he thought he might not live much longer so he needed to go have that beer.”
While the anecdote may be funny, York’s ability to battle the cancer had a large impact on his team.
“I think it was inspirational,” Cavanaugh says. “Prostate cancer is pretty curable these days, but there’s still the fact that when you hear someone of his ilk, that he has cancer, it’s scary.”
Numbers of historic proportions
Passing Mason for wins with 925 is a milestone that must be celebrated. Though Parker is still on York’s heels, just 40 wins behind, there aren’t many coaches nowadays who will ever come close to 925 wins in their careers.
Truth is, most coaches nowadays don’t have the longevity of York or Parker. NHL aspirations, not to mention simply the pressure to succeed, knock most coaches out of the game well before 500 wins.
“I think if I ever took a head coaching job, and I’m 44, hopefully I could coach for 20 years, so for me to get to 500 wins, I’d had to average 25 a year,” Cavanaugh says. “I think of a 20-win season as pretty remarkable.”
Looking at York’s numbers, the bulk of his wins have come at Boston College. York began his career with 125 wins in seven seasons at Clarkson, then won 342 games (and a national championship) in 15 season at Bowling Green. But at BC, it’s been a world of milestones.
Win No. 500 came in York’s second year at the Heights. By 2008, win No. 800 was in the books. And last season, 900 came during the Eagles’ dramatic playoff run that led to York’s fourth national title in 11 seasons.
And while Friday’s victory No. 925 places him at the top of a heap of college hockey’s greatest coaches, if York and his Eagles keep the torrid pace of victories, York, at 67 years old, could reach the holy grail of coaching — 1,000 wins — before he celebrates his 70th birthday.
“When Ron [Mason] retired, I remember consciously thinking that [1,000 wins] is safe,” Bertagna says.
Now, it seems like York reaching 1,000 victories is destiny. Though his birth certificate would tell you his age is 67, his vivacious attitude and spirit that he displays behind the bench, in his office or walking the bowels of any arena might make you think he doesn’t qualify for AARP.
Cavanaugh says part of that is that consistently throughout his career, York has been able to adjust to the times in each generation he has coached.
“If you drew parallels with any successful person, whether it be in business or music or entertainment, or whether it be in coaching, they’re able to adapt to the generational differences,” Cavanaugh says. “That’s one of Jerry’s strengths.”
He recalls his first season as York’s assistant, 1992, at Bowling Green, that York brought a Counting Crows CD to the locker room.
“The kids would all laugh when he’d put it on. But that was his way of telling the kids he’s hip to their culture,” Cavanaugh says.
This past season, he came into the locker room and asked the players if they’d downloaded the new Tim McGraw song. And while some of the players chuckled, it was questions like this that proved to Cavanaugh York’s ability to have longevity.
“He’s not bringing in CDs anymore,” Cavanaugh says, “and that’s my point.”
claver2010 wrote:Rough 1st period to say the least, down 3-0
PK hasn't been good. BC throwing everything at the net.
BC hockey coach Jerry York on brink of a grand achievement
Impeccably attired as always, Jerry York runs a tight ship on the BC bench.
By Kevin Paul Dupont Globe Staff January 18, 2016
The phone rang in Snooks Kelley’s office, and it was Len Ceglarski, then the hockey coach at Clarkson, in need of help. A new season approached and he was about to hire his first full-time assistant. Was there any chance his pal Kelley, Boston College’s legendary bench boss, could recommend someone?
In roughly the time it takes to open and close a bench door at a hockey rink, Kelley conducted his exhaustive nationwide search with but a glance at the rawboned kid standing across from his desk at The Heights.
Hold on, said Kelley, and he handed the phone to a somewhat dumbstruck 24-year-old Jerry York.
“You know, Snooks probably could have thought of any one of a thousand people,’’ recalled York, that serendipitous moment still resonating with him nearly 1,000 coaching victories later. “But it just so happens he looks across, and it’s, ‘Sure, yeah, I’ve got a guy right here.’ ’’
And so it began. Before the start of the 1970-71 academic year, newly married and career destiny unknown, York was on his way to Potsdam, N.Y., as Ceglarski’s freshly anointed aide de camp. Compensation: $9,000 a year and a “go-get-’em’’ slap on the back. The coaching world, as framed by rinks 85 feet wide and 200 feet long, would be his to have and to hold.
“Oh, that was hard,’’ recalled Bobbie York, who began dating her future husband in their undergraduate days at BC in the mid ’60s. “We were leaving our wedding reception and everyone was crying because we were leaving town. So, yeah, we drove up, honeymooned in Lake Placid, and there we were.’’
But not until an impromptu greeting from the upstate New York wildlife committee.
“On the drive up there,’’ said Bobbie, “we saw a big black bear run right across the highway. And I said, ‘Jerry, where are we going?!’ ’’
As it turned out, they were on the road to bountiful. York, now 70 years old and with five NCAA titles — including four since taking over at BC in 1994 — will be behind the bench Friday with a chance to record career win No. 1,000 when the Eagles take on UMass.
Every win now adds to York’s prodigious, near-unbelievable lifetime dossier. No hockey coach in Division 1 college history has reached such rarefied air. He eclipsed Ron Mason’s standing mark of 924 wins in December 2012, and soon will double the 501 career wins the legendary Kelley rolled up in his long tour at BC, where the rink inside Conte Forum has his name printed in the ice.
When Ceglarski succeeded Kelley at BC for the start of the 1972-73 season, York, only two years after seeing the bear cross the highway, was promoted to head coach at Clarkson. It officially launched him on a career trajectory that now has covered three schools (Clarkson, Bowling Green, and BC), 44 seasons, 1,700 games and an all-time roster of some 350 players.
No one else has such numbers, and it’s doubtful they’ll be challenged.
“Wow, I mean, 1,000 wins,’’ mused Wayne Wilson, longtime coach at Division 1 RIT, who played on York’s first NCAA title team at Bowling Green in 1984. “I can’t see anyone starting their career that young and then having that kind of success for so long. Not happening. Not unless they ramp up college hockey to, like, 50 games a year.’’
A momentous month
Had it all gone according to plan, York figures, he would have stuck around Boston and used his master’s degree in education, earned while a student coach at BC, to launch a high school career as a guidance counselor and hockey coach. He grew up in Watertown, one of 10 children, and came to The Heights in the fall of 1963 after graduating that spring from BC High.
’It is part of my fabric. I am a coach, it’s what I do. I can’t imagine getting up, reading the Globe and Herald, and thinking, “OK, what do I do next?” ’
He met Kelley for the first time during his senior year of high school, brought to campus by his coach, the Rev. Leo Pollard. Kelley was in the stands that night to watch the BC freshmen play a game.
“So he took me up to meet Snooks,’’ recalled York, “and when I left, I thought what an honor if I got a chance to come here and play at BC. I was a walk-on. We never talked tuition, room and board, nothing. They just said they were very interested.
“I already had applied to the school. I was thinking of Middlebury or Bowdoin. I had a little more contact with those types of schools. But I thought, ‘Boy, if I could play at BC,’ you know?”
By the fall, he was at The Heights, a “poor-skating center . . . who could make plays, but couldn’t skate,’’ he said. Then came two eventful days in November, York not sure what to make of either of them.
First, on Nov. 20, his father, a doctor who made his office in the family’s Watertown home, died suddenly of a heart attack while testifying in a courtroom.
“I remember the week like that,’’ said York, snapping his fingers, and reaching for a framed picture of his father he keeps in his office. “All of a sudden, a priest calls me down, and I am thinking, ‘Gee, I must not be doing well in school.’
“The teacher told me after class to go see the academic dean. I am thinking, ‘Gee, I haven’t done well in math’ or whatever. I sit down and he says, ‘Your dad died.’ Whoa!”
Two days later, on Friday, Nov. 22, York was away from campus for his father’s services when the nation learned that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas.
“I am 18 and banged by that,’’ he said, initially referring to his father’s unexpected death. “Then all of a sudden Kennedy died, and it’s, ‘Whoa, do I want to stay in school?’
“I was all mixed up. It was a tumultuous year. Vietnam was just starting to come. That was how I started the whole school year.’’
He stuck it out, played the freshman hockey season, went on to become a three-year letterman, and totaled 134 points in 81 games for the Eagles. He graduated in 1967 and was back playing hockey that fall in Minneapolis, hoping to suit up for Team USA in the 1968 Winter Olympics at Grenoble.
Cut by the Yanks near the new year, he reported directly to Fort Polk, La., to complete his US Army duties before returning to the BC campus in the fall of ’68 to start a master’s program in education. With Kelley still on the job as head coach, York for the next two years rejoined the team as a student assistant coach and also ran the intramural program.
Until, that is, the day Kelley fielded Ceglarski’s phone call.
“Funny the way things change, isn’t it?’’ said York, who oversees a staff these days of two assistant coaches, a volunteer coach, and a director of hockey operations. “Funny how your life can change in different ways.’’
The York method may not be patented, but there is a definite pattern to it, one he and his players say is based on bountiful energy and perpetual enthusiasm. Calm and even stoic behind the bench during games, and always dressed in professorial jacket and tie, York is typically loud and often animated in practice.
“That’s really him,’’ noted Bobbie. “The Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going.’’
“He is always the most passionate guy on the ice,’’ added senior captain Teddy Doherty, a defenseman from Hopkinton. “I think that is what you want in a leader. He cares so much. He wants to win. He hates to lose more than anything in the entire world.”
“He is the most emotional person on the ice for practice,’’ agreed junior forward Chris Calnan, an assistant captain from Norwell. “Right when you get on the ice. He is banging his stick, yelling, he is excited every single day. It’s really amazing.
“So if it’s a freshman, sophomore, whoever, everyone is thinking, ‘Hey, let’s have a good practice, this guy is fired up!’ ’’
There are also dashes of old-school ways in the York tool kit. He reminds players to make their beds to start their day, arrive to the rink on time, keep their hair cut short, and to be clean shaven.
“I could use a shave right now,’’ mused Doherty, rubbing fingers through some chin stubble. “If it’s like this again, he’d tell me, ‘If you don’t shave by tomorrow, you’re not practicing.’ He means it.’’
Has Doherty ever missed practiced on a grooming violation?
“Uh, no,’’ he said.
There is also York’s emphasis on a class system, preaching not only cohesiveness as a team, but a bonding within the four classes. He tells them all, repeatedly, that he wants them all to leave The Heights with a ring and a diploma. Many of them have succeeded on both scores, with York directing BC to national championships in 2001, 2008, 2010, and 2012. Unity and playing for one another, he believes, are key.
Upon arrival, each freshman is paired in their dorm unit with another freshman on the team. For sophomore, junior, and senior seasons, the players live in six- or eight-man campus suites, again living with teammates in their same class. York, the players say, drops by fairly frequently, to inspect their digs and give them grades on room tidiness.
“I don’t think anyone ever got an A or A-minus,’’ noted Calnan, a finance major who was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012.
Calnan, who lives in an eight-man suite, says he and his roomies have consistently graded in the B range.
“Not bad,’’ he said. “We try to keep it clean. It all comes back to the character thing.’’
The character thing, said Calnan, is York’s constant reminder that they carry themselves as “small men on campus.’’ They’re not to boast, get in fights, or otherwise make themselves conspicuous by either the “student’’ or the “athlete’’ in their current job title. Wherever they go, whatever they do, said Calnan, they are all expected to act like “poster boys’’ for BC hockey.
“Having good values. Work hard. Be respectful. No drama,’’ said Calnan. “None of the flashy stuff with guys running mouths, getting in fights. You see other kids on campus getting in fights, all that stuff. He just asks us to be a good person and stay true to the values we have here.’’
The proud caretaker
The formula keeps working. Now in his 22nd season at The Heights, York has the four national titles, a record of 532-260-74, and a program that avoids headlines save for its on-ice excellence. The Eagles did not make it to the postseason in York’s first three seasons, but have missed only twice since. Including the championships, they’ve made it to the Frozen Four in 11 of 21 seasons.
“You have to like people,’’ said York, asked to explain his success. “Especially my job, at this level. Ages 18-22, they’re probably the most volatile time in your life. I am always thinking of those decisions. So we have 25 of those guys, and there is always something going on.
“It keeps me on my toes. It’s the ability to handle all that. Not that we always get it right. But you’ve got to handle that. Sure, you have to be proficient in the X’s and O’s, but it is not rocket science. It’s running all the little group dynamics.’’
More than 40 years later, asked to choose the six players he’d prefer to start a game with today, York somewhat surprisingly eschewed the standard coach political correctness, and chose Johnny Gaudreau (BC), Brian Gionta (BC), and Dave Taylor (Clarkson) as his forwards, backed by defensemen Rob Blake (Bowling Green) and Brooks Orpik (BC), and goalie Cory Schneider (BC).
The Gionta pick was no surprise to Bobbie York. She said her husband has long thought a Gionta statue should be paired on campus next to the one of Doug Flutie.
The player who most surprised York over the years?
“I’d have to say Nathan Gerbe,’’ he said, referring to the 5-foot-5-inch center who played three college seasons, left in 2008, and has played upward of 400 NHL games. “He was struggling. Academics were pushing. Hockey wasn’t going well. We were all talking with him.
“Then one day he comes in and says, ‘I think I have figured it out.’ It just clicked. From that day on, it was less about Nathan and more about the team. All of a sudden it was ‘Wow, this is it.’ ’’
If the weight of the thousandth win is heavy on York, it doesn’t show. Over the course of a 45-minute interview, it was clear he was uncomfortable talking about himself, the meter that continues to run on his record, the significance of a W-L-T ledger that soon will begin with four digits under the “W.”
“I tell the kids, we protect the history of the program, but we build something,’’ he said, slightly more comfortable when the subject is how he would care his legacy to be characterized. “We are proud of what we are, but we want to build something special here.
“BC is a terrific program. I didn’t want to just maintain it. I wanted to get better in different areas, and hopefully we are in a better place than 50 years ago, 20 years ago. I think I have been a caretaker of the program and I probably feel proud of that.’’
Next up is UMass, Friday night in Amherst. If that isn’t win No. 1,000, the next chance will be against Connecticut Saturday, on the sheet of ice named for Snooks Kelley.
And after that, no one knows, including the winningest coach in college hockey.
“I enjoy it,’’ he said, pondering how many seasons he’ll continue. “I always thought at Clarkson, ‘Am I going to like it, stay in it?’ Certainly I am a lifer now. I enjoy it. I love the competition and feel good about it.
“It is part of my fabric. I am a coach, it’s what I do. I can’t imagine getting up, reading the Globe and Herald, and thinking, ‘OK, what do I do next?’ ’’
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.
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