Click on the issue above to download a special PDF version of The Heights commemorating men’s hockey coach Jerry York’s 925th win.
By DJ Adams, Heights Senior Staff
MINNEAPOLIS—From start to finish, it couldn’t have been more fitting. How Jerry York, the head coach of Boston College, recorded the 925th win of his 41-year career and acquired the record for most victories by a coach in NCAA Division I men’s hockey was perfect.
No. 925 couldn’t have been more representative of York’s persona. It was as if the entire series of events was another one of the menacing defensive schemes or clever offensive strategies he draws up daily in his notebook.
The match-up could have been legendary – but it wasn’t. Had the Eagles swept Boston University in a home-and-home series a few weeks prior, the record would have been set in Conte Forum against BC’s biggest rival and another hockey mastermind of York’s caliber in Terriers head coach Jack Parker.
Instead, a few hiccup games interrupted the storybook ending, and a routine 5-2 victory over the University of Alabama-Huntsville in the opening game of the Mariucci Classic lifted York past Ron Mason’s record. The Chargers have won just three games this season and the game took place more than 1350 miles from Chestnut Hill, but the Eagles’ mindset regarding the potentially historic day was standard.
“I never thought of getting it out of the way,” York said. “Coaches coach, and we play to win trophies. And I thought despite all the hoopla, it never really entered my mind. We want to coach and we want to win hockey games. It wasn’t a big concern of ours, and we never talked to the players about it.”
While senior captain Pat Mullane acknowledged that the record was in the mind of every player, he didn’t find it distracting.
“It wasn’t a distraction, it was something almost the opposite,” Mullane said. “It motivated us, and he’s given us a great opportunity to play for Boston College and wear the maroon and gold. I think everyone in the room understood that we owed it to him to get the win as soon as possible.”
Although the Eagles stood thin defensively, without veterans Isaac MacLeod and Patch Alber to anchor the blue-line, York orchestrated a victory in typical collective fashion. New defensive pairings withstood a physical Chargers team. Even without leading goal-scorer Johnny Gaudreau, the offense thrived as Cam Spiro recorded his first career goal and Danny Linell tallied his second score of the season.
“Coach has made it clear that whether you are a first-line guy, or you are not in the lineup you should be expected to produce and be ready to go whenever your name is called,” Mullane said. “Guys practice and get ready for this opportunity, and Coach makes sure they are ready when their name is called.”
The game was just the latest example of York’s ability to redirect individual skill into a thriving team.
Recognition of the big victory could have been explosive and immediate – but it wasn’t. The screen above the ice flashed simple congratulations, the less than 100 Superfans in attendance gave a warm round of applause, and York lifted his notebook in quiet, composed acknowledgement.
Even the post-game celebration was brief, as an important match-up against No. 4 Minnesota loomed the following night. The dinner plans were Campus Pizza. The friendly Dinkytown establishment didn’t even have champagne for popping. Although, York joked, “maybe some pepperoni” would have to be ordered.
Even without a grand celebration, the coach’s importance to the Eagles was evident.
“Words can’t describe what it’s like to play for a coach who is approaching 1000 career wins,” said goaltender Parker Milner. “It’s a special thing every day playing for a living legend. You know, being with him day in and day out you see how he’s gotten to where he is.”
“It’s very special to be a part of,” Mullane said. “I think everyone in the locker room understands how important this win is, and how great it is to be a part of and experience. I don’t know how many other coaches will get that number, so I think I’ll look back in 10, 15, 20 years and be like, ‘I was there for that,’ so it was definitely exciting.”
For York, though, the moment for self-appreciation is still years away.
“To me, maybe when I sit down on some porch in 10 years and think about it, [but] I’ve always been about the team,” York said. “As a player I was like that, as a coach I’ve been like that. I haven’t really sought individual goals.”
Perhaps most telling, then, was how the coach handled the spotlight when it finally shone on his infectious smile. The press conference could have dragged on with once-in-a-lifetime egotistical quotations of perseverance and hard work, but it didn’t.
Even in the defining moment of his illustrious career, York was the same cool, reflective, and passionate person as always. He cited the greatness of the players around him and the importance of team mentality as the biggest contributors to the record.
“We always talk in our program about how, there’s no personal goals,” York said. “We aren’t trying to become Hobey Bakers and All-Americans, we just want our team. We discourage people from being selfish and trying to score, because that will help me.
“That’s not what we are about on the Eagles. I want to win major trophies for the team.”
That feat continues to be accomplished. York has led BC to four NCAA championships in 2001, 2008, 2010, and 2012. The Eagles have reached 10 Frozen Fours during York’s tenure, including eight in the last 13 years. Nine Hockey East titles, and three straight Beanpots are just additional hardware for York’s impressive resume.
Even with the numerous accolades in his grasp, York’s unselfishness never wavered.
“It’s just so blatantly obvious that he genuinely wants to deflect [recognition],” Milner said. “He feels that what we accomplish is much bigger than him. For him to be that sincere is pretty impressive.”
That authenticity can be heard in all of York’s quotes and seen whenever he allows that infectious smirk to emerge. Winning is important to York, but so is maintaining a passion for his work.
“You can tell he loves hockey,” Milner said. “Just the smile that he has going out there everyday, it’s impressive. Forty-plus years, and that shows the dedication he has to this sport. With that dedication he has been able to influence the game in a pretty incredible way.”