The legendary Boston College coach caught some flak from Canadian writers for putting his team before pageantry. But sacrificing personal reward in favor of the players he teaches is all that is right with hockey.
Jerry York and Lanny McDonald|Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
It was a pretty good weekend for coach Jerry York. His Boston College Eagles swept the Vermont Catamounts, running the team’s win streak to five games, all of which came against in-conference opponents. Senior left winger David Cotton is leading the team’s offense, while freshman goaltending star Spencer Knight has given up just four goals during the five-game win streak. Oh, and York was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
There were some older media types mewling over the fact York skipped some of the pomp and circumstance on Friday and Saturday, but for me, this was yet another demonstration of why York deserved his Hall call. Think about it: this man is getting a lifetime achievement award for his individual excellence behind the bench, but he stuck around for his team. It doesn’t get any more hockey than that.
To understand York’s commitment to his Eagles, just look back to 2016 when he took a train to Indiana because he couldn’t fly due to recent eye surgery. He made it for the game against Notre Dame, rocking an eye patch behind the bench for good measure.
If you’re a prospective Boston College player, you can’t ask for more: no matter what the stakes, York has proven time and again that he will be there for his team, full stop. I would even argue that skipping the glad-handing part of Hall of Fame weekend makes York even more worthy of his induction. Team first, always.
As for York’s other credentials, they’re impeccable. Five national championships are a good start (four with Boston College, one with Bowling Green). There’s also the 1,074 wins and counting – by far the most in NCAA men’s hockey history. And of course, there’s the longevity itself: In 1972, York became the head coach at Clarkson after several years as an assistant. He has held that position continually (albeit at a couple different schools) ever since and this year marks his 26th season with Boston College alone.
There have been some bad-faith arguments that by skipping some of the earlier parties, York was being dismissive of Hall of Fame weekend, but I don’t buy that for a second. Once Boston College was finished its Friday-Saturday game schedule, York came to Toronto and was behind the bench for the Legends Classic game, which pitted teams led by Mats Sundin and Nicklas Lidstrom against each other, all in the name of revelry. This is a man who has lived and breathed hockey for longer than many of us have been alive – trust me, he gets it.
The Hall of Fame is an interesting creation. There have been some…let’s say, chummy inductions over the years and it’s hard not to look back on some of the notorious figures who long ago were enshrined and wish they weren’t in. So it’s a little rich for some folks to drum up a controversy around someone with the bona fides of York.
The college hockey world has been under-represented over the years, partially because of Canadian media dominance over the sport. That may explain the roots of this debacle and hopefully, everyone takes the right lessons from this. Because you don’t get any more dedicated to the game of hockey than Jerry York.
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