A Hobey Homecoming
Bowling Green standouts George McPhee (left) and Brian Holzinger
flash the rings commemorating their Hobey Baker Award wins.
The pair were honored at the Falcons' game vs. Michigan March
4. (photo courtesy BGSU)
Ohio – Hobey Baker was a man of numerous achievements –
a tremendous athlete, a decorated war hero, and a gentleman of
the highest order. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that
he was able to bring representatives of the parties involved in
the NHL’s contentious labor dispute together to celebrate
the game for at least one night.
the specter of Hobey didn’t escort Gary Bettman and Bob
Goodenow on a 13th-hour voyage to hockey’s past, present
and future. But the award that bears his name – given annually
to the top player in college hockey – brought former Hobey
honorees George McPhee and Brian Holzinger to their alma mater,
Bowling Green, for the Falcons’ regular-season finale against
Michigan last week.
weeks ago, McPhee, the Washington Capitals’ general manager
and alternate governor, and Holzinger, a nine-year NHL veteran
who split last season between Pittsburgh and Columbus, weren’t
even allowed to speak to each other because of Bettman’s
gag order preventing team executives from being in contact with
players. On this unseasonably mild March night, however, the former
BGSU stars got a warm reception from a near-sellout crowd of more
than 4,600 fans after receiving rings commemorating their Hobey
Baker Award wins during an intermission ceremony.
McPhee, who won the award in 1982, last weekend’s event
was an opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for the honor.
Because of his youth and the newness of the Hobey, McPhee admitted
that he couldn’t comprehend what he had achieved when he
became the award’s second-ever recipient nearly a quarter-century
thought at that time it was a great thing for the school,”
McPhee said. “It was nice to get national recognition for
a great program. Here we are 25 years later and people are so
nice to come out and recognize you.”
time Holzinger became the second Falcon to win the Hobey in 1995,
the award had gained a foothold in the minds of most hockey fans
due in large part to Paul Kariya – the former Maine standout,
who had earned the honor two years prior, was in the middle of
an outstanding rookie campaign with the NHL’s Mighty Ducks
and more people know what the Hobey Baker Award is…and what
it represents,” Holzinger said. “I think that’s
more important to what the award is all about.”
the variables that go into it make it unique,” McPhee added.
“You have to be a good player, you have to be a good student
and you have to do the right things away from the ice as well.
I was fortunate to have played on a good team that had a heck
of a year. I was a senior, I was a captain and my grades were
the Falcons enjoyed a terrific season in 1981-82, it ended a bit
premature for the Guelph, Ontario, native’s tastes. Bowling
Green was denied a berth in the Frozen Four after losing an NCAA
quarterfinal series to Northeastern. So when then-BGSU coach Jerry
York told his star player he would receive the Hobey, McPhee wasn’t
sure how to react.
certainly felt like a big deal, but we had just been eliminated
and as a senior, it was all over for me,” McPhee recalled.
“It was probably the worst weekend I had in four years of
college. It was a tough time to swallow all that stuff, but in
the weeks after that, it was a real big deal for the school. I
was proud to win something like that and give Bowling Green the
recognition it got.”
McPhee, Holzinger’s reaction to hearing he had won the Hobey
was somewhat muted. At first, he didn’t believe his coach,
Buddy Powers, who informed him of the honor. Once he realized
Powers was serious, his thoughts skipped past elation to concern.
of the criteria was that you weren’t allowed to tell anyone
other than your immediate family and, obviously, I wanted to tell
everyone in the world because I was so proud of that,” Holzinger
explained. “It was a great, memorable time for me and something
I didn’t want to keep secret for that long.”
secret would eventually leak prior to the announcement, but it
was through no fault of Holzinger’s. When he won the Hobey
in 1995, the Falcons missed out on the NCAA Tournament altogether.
Since the award was being presented in Providence – the
site of that year’s Frozen Four – the day before the
championship game, keeping his reasons for being in town at that
time under wraps was a dicey proposition.
happened to be doing a camp for underprivileged kids in Providence
that year and I was already on the staff to work the clinic, so
I was already going there,” Holzinger said. “But people
started to put two and two together and the cat got out of the
bag a little bit.”
only was Holzinger the last Falcon to win the award, but he’s
also the last BGSU player to be chosen as a finalist for an honor.
So maybe it’s more than just coincidence that he and McPhee
were honored for their Hobey Baker wins as their alma mater, led
by a Hobey candidate in senior goaltender Jordan Sigalet, closed
out its best regular season since Holzinger’s senior campaign.
The moment wasn’t lost on McPhee, who remarked that the
atmosphere at BGSU Ice Arena that night was not unlike those during
the program's halcyon days of which he was part.
wonder how this ever came about,” McPhee said. “I
haven’t had much time to contemplate my own experience with
this…but tonight for a few minutes, I felt very special
and was real proud to have played here and do something like that.”