As a kid he dreamed of playing like Gretzky. At prep school they called him the next Craig Janney. Now he’s making a name for himself at Boston College.
Marty Reasoner ran away with the Hockey East Rookie of the Year award last year after being named Rookie of the Week nine times and Rookie of the Month four times, both records.
“I was excited about it,” said Reasoner. “It was a nice honor to have. It topped off a pretty good year.”
Reasoner’s “pretty good year” included individual totals of 45 points on 16 goals and 29 assists. It also included his role in elevating Boston College from next to last in league standings to only one point out of fourth place.
The accolades have since continued. This summer the St. Louis Blues selected Reasoner on the first round with the 14th overall pick. More recently, the league selected him as the only sophomore on its preseason All Hockey East team.
The Road to Chestnut Hill
Although it now seems like Reasoner was always destined to be the marquee player at Conte Forum, his route to Boston College required a few chance redirections.
The world renowned Pee Wee tournament held at La Colisee in Quebec heads that list. “That’s how I got pushed east. I played in Rochester, [New York] while growing up, but when I was thirteen or fourteen I went to the tournament in Quebec and hooked up with some kids from Boston.”
The friendships clicked. That summer he played in more tournaments with his Boston friends. Over time they all began to look at the same prep schools.
Reasoner also considered going major junior. “When I was about fifteen years old, I had ideas about going major junior. But playing in [Rochester], I wasn’t seen too much by the major junior teams and got passed by in their draft. They didn’t seem interested, so I just decided to go to prep school.”
The major junior teams changed their tune after seeing him at Deerfield Academy, but by then it was too late. “There were a lot of people once I was at prep school that told me to go to major junior, but I had already started on my way [to college] and I was going to keep going in that direction.”
After two All New England years at Deerfield, Reasoner was a highly sought after recruit. “My decision came down to BC and Michigan,” said Reasoner. “The things that made me decide on BC were the location — I liked Boston and the area — and the team. I knew I would be able to step in and contribute right away. I had a lot of confidence that Jerry York would help the team succeed in the future.”
York had returned to his alma mater where he’d been a first team All American in the sixties. The Eagles had hit rock bottom before hiring him, enduring first an embarrassing scholarship scandal and then an abortive hiring of Mike Milbury from the Bruins.
Adding insult to injury, the team sank to new depths in the standings. BC had finished in first place six out of the first seven years of Hockey East’s existence. But only the league’s addition of a new team, UMass Amherst, kept the Eagles out of last place in 1994-95.
At first glance, Boston College hardly seemed the logical destination for one of the top recruits in the country.
“What made me feel comfortable was how Coach York had handled the whole situation,” Reasoner said. “I was confident that he had resolved everything and that he was looking forward to the future and that he was going to bring the BC program back to where it was in the early part of the decade.
“It was a decision a lot like the one I made to go to Deerfield. I went to Deerfield when the team was losing a lot of seniors and I knew I was going to be able to play a lot. BC was in the same situation. They were losing a lot of seniors and I knew I was going to be able to come in and contribute right away. For me, I’ve always benefited the most when I could play a lot and learn by just playing and trying to do my best against the best players. I think it’s worked out.”
The League’s Top Rookie
The Eagles began poorly with a 2-7-1 record. Coming from Deerfield where he’d lost only five games in two years, the losses stung. “It was real hard to take,” Reasoner said. “It was one of the first times I’d [lost a lot of games] in a while.
“I think our start was tough because we were a young team and a team that wasn’t really too sure of itself. I think that as the season went along we became more confident in each other and ourselves as a team. We started to play really well from about the midpoint of the season.”
Not coincidentally, the Eagles began to win when Coach York combined Reasoner and David Hymovitz for good after the 2-7-1 start. Reasoner had played with a variety of linemates but he and Hymovitz formed the perfect playmaker-sniper combination.
“I think we complemented each other really well,” said Reasoner. “He was a great college player and had a great college career. It was fun to play with him. It just took us a while to get used to each other and from there on we just took off.”
In late December Reasoner left the Eagles for two games to play in the World Junior Tournament. Many fans expressed disappointment with Team USA’s fifth place finish, but Reasoner saw things differently.
“In that type of tournament it’s so close between a fifth place [finish] and being in the medal round and maybe finishing in third or second place…. A few bounces here or there and we’re in the final four and have a shot at the gold…. A lot of people like to say we had a terrible tournament, but I guess I’m more one to defend our team.”
Individually, Reasoner excelled. In six games for Team USA he scored three goals and added two assists. His coaches named him one of the team’s Top Three Players. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve had with hockey,” he remembered. “Just being able to play against the best guys in the world helped me as a player and gave me that much more confidence in my game.”
That confidence radiated when he returned to BC. After his return the Eagles finished 10-5-1 down the stretch. “More than anything else we believed in ourselves and believed that we could beat anyone on any given night. I think early in the season that might have been one of our problems. We didn’t have that confidence that we had late in the year.”
Heading into the playoffs, many considered the fifth place Eagles favorites over a Providence Friars team that had finished only a point ahead of them. The Friars limped into the playoffs, their strong start and weak finish an exact opposite of the Eagles’ season.
However, appearances and momentum proved deceiving. Key Friar players who had been out due to injury returned to bolster Providence’s suffocating defense.
“They played us perfectly,” said Reasoner. “They just frustrated us. We really couldn’t do anything offensively and they capitalized on all their power-play opportunities and we didn’t. They really worked hard and got it done both nights.”
Providence swept BC before also beating Boston University and Maine to take the Hockey East Championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
Looking to the Future
Then the NHL came knocking.
St. Louis selected him on the first round, setting up a potential future pairing of Reasoner and a guy named Brett Hull.
“Obviously after watching Brett Hull play in the World Cup, I wouldn’t mind playing with him at all,” said Reasoner, laughing. “But that’s something I can only dream about right now.”
In the meantime, he’d like to improve some parts of his game. “This year I’d like to shoot the puck better and score a little more.” He also worked four days a week in the offseason with Strength and Conditioning Coach Greg Finnegan.
With the league’s top recruiting class this past year and an impressive list of verbal commitments already lined up for next year, the Eagles appear destined for greatness. Just how great, however, hangs on whether Reasoner stays for a run at a national title or leaves early for the NHL.
Will he go or will he stay?
“I really have no idea right now,” he said. “I guess I’ll just have to take it year by year and at the end of the season we’ll see what happens. If the offer presents itself and it’s something I can’t pass up, then I may have to think about it. But as of right now I’m playing for BC and I’m going to give them everything I have.”
This year, after opening with back to back road losses to sixth ranked Bowling Green, BC stood deadlocked at 3-3 in a “must win” game against seventh ranked Michigan State. Reasoner, who prefers to display leadership with his actions rather than his words, let his stick do the talking with a breakaway pass that Blake Bellefeuille converted for the winning goal.
The raucous crowd of 4,338 erupted.
You can bet it won’t be the last time Marty Reasoner makes them roar.