Monday, May 10, 2010

A Class Act

Every time SuperFans head to Conte Forum from October to April for a men’s ice hockey game, they know that he will be there. They know that when they take their seats, they can look behind Boston College’s bench and see him, clad in his usual sweater vest, jacket, and tie. He doesn’t kick water bottles, throw sticks, berate referees, and you would be hard pressed to witness him actually yell more than a handful of times in an entire season.

Mr. Jerry York, the Men’s Ice Hockey Team’s Head Coach for the last sixteen seasons, is the epitome of class and composure. If this University had to pick one person to serve as its ambassador to the rest of the world, York would be at the top of the list. When he goes to visit recruits and their families, he tells them exactly what it means to be an Eagle and be a member of his program, and it works.

You don’t get your jersey retired for just being a nice guy, though. Following legendary coaches like John “Snooks” Kelley and Len Ceglarski who each held the post for decades, York took the helm of the BC program in 1994 with a national championship already in his trophy case from his time at Bowling Green and he has not looked back since. Today, Coach York has the most wins of any active Division 1 hockey coach with 850 (383 of them coming during his tenure at BC). In the last 13 seasons, he has led the Eagles to seven Hockey East Tournament Titles, eleven NCAA tournament berths, nine Frozen Fours, and of course, 3 national championships. He does not always pick the biggest or the most talented players, but every name on the roster plays a specific role. Sure, he has goal scorers like sophomore Cam Atkinson and the NHL’s 19th overall draft pick freshman Chris Kreider, but then there are players like Matt Lombardi from whom York always seems to extract the very best. This past season’s Captain, senior Matt Price, was not always the most productive name on the stat sheet either, yet York ranks him among the best captains to ever wear the maroon and gold. He has a way with people, a way with players, and a way with this game.

Next year’s hockey season seems a ways off right now, but you can bet that Jerry will be at work every day from now until his team raises the 2010 National Championship banner to the rafters of Conte Forum in October. Oh, and that’s the other thing. It is never about him. He’ll never acknowledge the fact that he is only 74 wins away from breaking longtime Michigan State Coach Ron Mason’s all-time wins record. He wouldn’t even let DA Gene DeFilippo retire his number since junior Brian Gibbons now dons #17 and York would rather a jersey be retired rather than the specific number. He’s always worried about the next shift against the next opponent.

As the school year comes to an end and everyone prepares to leave the Heights for the summer, you can rest assured that one man will be at work while we are gone and when we return in the fall and head to Conte Forum to take in a hockey game, he’ll be there. Don’t let him fool you; the man standing proudly behind the bench in his sweater vest, jacket and tie is what makes this team go. He’s the class act of college hockey, and everyone knows it.

Last week, my co-host Pat Quinlivan and I went to the Ice Hockey offices in Conte Forum to interview Head Coach Jerry York for the final broadcast of our weekly sports talk radio show on WVBC, “The Beantown Buzz.” Check out this link to hear the full interview:

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