Legendary BC Coach Has Win Record in Sight
In this photo taken Dec. 5, 2012, Boston College hockey coach Jerry York, center, talks with his players during an NCAA college hockey practice in Boston. With 924 career victories, York is tied with Ron Mason atop college's all-time win list. He tied the longtime Michigan State coach by defeating rival Boston University last weekend, and he could break the record if the Eagles win in Providence on Friday night. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Boston — Boston College has a new athletic director and an even newer football coach, who was hired this week to replace the one that led the Eagles to a last-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The basketball team isn’t doing much better.
And Jerry York just keeps winning.
With 924 career victories, the BC hockey coach is tied with Ron Mason atop college’s all-time win list. York tied the longtime Michigan State coach by beating archrival Boston University last weekend, and he could break the record if the Eagles win in Providence tonight.
“The phone’s been blowing up a little bit,” York said before practice this week as he tried to deflect attention away from his pursuit of the record. “I want to know where we are in the standings. Our whole goal here is to chase significant accomplishments. And in hockey those are trophies. So we’re involved in a league race right now, trying to win a trophy.”
York has plenty of those.
There are five from his NCAA championships — four at Boston College and one at Bowling Green — along with a record 37 wins in the NCAA tournament. He reached the Frozen Four six other times at BC alone, while also winning the Hockey East tournament nine times and five Beanpot titles — including the last three in a row.
And there are plenty of wins.
The first one was a 13-0 victory for Clarkson over the University of Quebec on Nov. 10, 1972. York, at 26, was the youngest head coach in the nation.
“Sometimes it seems like yesterday, and sometimes it seems like a long time ago,” he said. “When I was at Clarkson, I wasn’t sure how long I would be coaching. My father-in-law kept saying, ‘When are you going to get a real job, Jerry? My daughter’s accustomed to living a good life here.’
“But that’s what I was thinking back then. Wins were secondary. It was just years. Would I still be coaching 40 years from that point, I probably would have said no way.”
But he is, following six years and 125 wins at Clarkson with 342 more, including a national championship and five more NCAA tournament appearances after succeeding Mason at Bowling Green. He has won 457 games since coming to Boston College in 1994, giving him an overall record of 924-559-94.
“He’s just an icon in college hockey,” said Patrick Wey, one of the Eagles’ alternate captains. “It’s sort of understood that he’s one of the greatest to coach, ever. And then you talk to him and he’s completely the opposite of what you expect. That’s when you realize he’s such a special person.”
The players awarded York a game puck after win No. 924 and he will probably get the one from No. 925 as well, Wey said. Hanging from the luxury suites at Kelley Rink, where York’s jersey has been retired, is a banner that reads: “In York We Trust — 924 — Wins.”
“Everyone knows that he’s getting close,” Wey said, adding that players don’t talk about the record — in part because of hockey’s superstitious culture but also because they know York would not approve. “Oh, my gosh. He pushes all the attention away from himself. He’s so humble all the time.”
Talking to York himself about the record is more difficult than facing a 5-on-3 advantage — part of a philosophy that he says applies to his team as well. He does not promote players for individual awards such as the Hobey Baker or All-American, and he never gave much thought to breaking the tradition for himself.
“I’m fully involved in preparing for Providence,” he said. Asked to reflect on how he’s reached this point, he said: “I’m not done, so I haven’t had a chance to look back and reflect. As hard as it is to believe. I’m not trying to sell anything. It’s just the way it is.
“I don’t think a minute goes by that at some point I’m not thankful and honored to have coached the players that I’ve coached over the years. Incredible players and assistant coaches. But it’s not because of a milestone coming. You have to be very aware of who’s with you in this thing. It’s not one guy on a cross-country chase. Whether it’s at Bowling Green or Clarkson or here, that’s always with me.”
The only time York would talk about Mason’s record, in fact, is when he was asked about Mason himself, who York replaced at Bowling Green; the two competed against each other for the next 15 years.
“He was a terrific person that really helped college hockey,” York said. “He was an icon and all of us respected him. I had to go against him all the time so I know how good he was.
“One of the things that helped me as a coach was going into Bowling Green. He had just left, but I could see the fundamentals of the program. And not just the hockey, but the alumni groups, the booster groups, the outreach that they had with the community. So all the things that Ron had with Bowling Green were there for me to analyze and look at.”
Adding crosstown rival Jack Parker — the Boston University coach and friend — to the list, York said: “Those are the guys that are keeping you on your toes. We had some incredible games versus some of Ronnie’s teams. I had a great deal of respect for him.”
And York’s peers feel the same way.
When the school held a news conference to introduce new football coach Steve Addazio this week, he touched upon the usual highlights that drew him to BC: The beauty of the campus, the school’s academic and Jesuit mission, and his memories of watching Doug Flutie’s famous “Hail Mary” against Miami in 1984.
But, in a telling statement about the roles their respective sports hold in Chestnut Hill, he also mentioned meeting York.
“What a guy. What a coach. What a program,” Addazio gushed. “Right here on this campus, I have the opportunity to go watch a program that operates a high level, maybe the highest level for any athletic program in the country.”