TAMPA, Fla. – Five national championships, three in the past five years, 900-plus wins, 27 regular-season and playoff conference titles, numerous All-Americans and professional players, and an enduring impact on hundreds of hockey lives. Those are the quick and easy talking points about Boston College head coach Jerry York.
In the early days of INCH, we published a ranking of some of the all-time greatest coaches. In our minds, it’s undeniable nine seasons later that Jerry York has moved to the top of the list. Fittingly, York mentioned Bob Johnson as a huge influence in his coaching career after the national championship game, and some advice that York received from Johnson after coaching Bowling Green to the 1984 championship.
“It’s just like Bob Johnson said to me, if you get a blueprint … we’ve always tried to have excellent defensemen, we’ve had that through all these title teams. Our forwards have been explosive and very creative, whether it’s Brian Gionta or Barry Almeida, right through the list,” York said. “They all do share great team bonding, they’re all tight as groups and there are probably more similarities than differences in them based on my observation. All good goaltenders too, we’ve had a string of great goaltenders.”
George Roll, former head coach at Clarkson and a four-year player under York at Bowling Green in the early 1980s said that his coaching style emphasizes positivity.
“He’s extremely easy to play for. As long as you compete at a high level he doesn’t get upset about mistakes. He’s just a joy to be around, he’s upbeat and positive. I can barely remember any times in my four years where he was negative with any of the players and that’s his disposition, he’s able to handle things well and that translates to his teams,” Roll said.
Sure, there are great players, and that positive attitude gives them confidence to make things happen on the ice. It’s impossible to see what confidence looks like, but every time you see BC on the ice, you can see that it’s a team that has the proper mindset to make aggressive, creative plays. They have that trait, they have that confidence. Almost 30 years later, his current players echo what Roll experienced back then.
“It’s his positive energy,” BC senior defenseman Edwin Shea said, who wrapped a four-year career that included 139 games played for the Eagles under Jerry York. “Every day he comes to the rink and he’s the happiest guy, the most upbeat guy. He’s more upbeat than any player at the rink every single day. That’s contagious and it just brings a great environment to play in and everyone loves him.”
PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME
Confidence and togetherness are one thing, and the team also seems to play its best hockey at the end of the year.
“They obviously get a lot of great players to come to Boston College but what Jerry does so well is get them all aiming in the right direction at the right time of year. They went through some struggles, and I think in the end that kind of builds your team, builds your character, builds your foundation,” Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon said. “Once they all get going in one direction and all the pieces are syncing, they play their best hockey at the best time. To do that consistently every year is really special.”
Former Boston College star Ryan Shannon, currently a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, saw his alma mater win a national championship in his current workplace. He recalled something he sees on an annual basis from York. The reason for Boston College’s success is that it doesn’t rest on what it has already achieved.
“It’s unbelievable. It’s the culture that he demands,” Shannon said. “He’s built this up for a very long time and it’s always about the next year. He’s going to enjoy this championship for probably a couple weeks, and it’s always been about the next season. I’m really proud to have been an Eagle, and even more proud since I’ve left.”
IMPACT ON COLLEGE HOCKEY
With 40 years in the Division I coaching ranks, including head-coaching positions at Clarkson, Bowling Green and Boston College, York has been a success across different eras and different circumstances. He’s regarded as one of the giants of the game by other current coaches when it comes to dealing with issues in the game at the national coaches convention.
“Quietly, he’s a leader among the coaches. He picks and chooses topics that he wants to get involved in, but when he speaks definitely the room becomes very quiet,” Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold said. “He’s an impressive man and he’s got a presence about him and gets a lot of respect, as he should, and as he deserves to have.”
All of the victories and all of the accolades are hard-earned and well-deserved, but York’s impact reaches far greater than his campus community or conference membership.
“When you look at guys like Jerry York, or Jack Parker, they’re the legends of our game. Ron Mason, they’re what you think about when you talk about college hockey coaches. It’s a source of inspiration for younger coaches, and they’re great ambassadors for the game,” Sneddon said. “They care about the game, not just Boston College, they care about college hockey and all that’s good about college hockey. He’s a legend.”