CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — It’s happened only two times before and never in Boston. And for once this week, we’re not talking about anything to do with the Boston Red Sox.
Jerry York became just the third coach in college history, joining coaching legends Ron Mason and Bob Peters, to reach 700 career wins Friday when his No. 2 Boston College club survived the late onslaught of No. 4 North Dakota, 5-3.
In a week of sports milestones in Boston, York remained 100 percent humble.
“We’ll leave that for [the media] to talk about,” said York when asked to put into perspective his milestone victory.
With York’s lips sealed, though, it wasn’t hard to find others to help give some perspective as to what 700 victories meant.
“It’s unbelievable,” said junior Patrick Eaves, whose brother Ben also played under York before graduating last year. “It’s was nice for the win to come against a great team like North Dakota.
“I personally can’t fathom how many wins  is,” laughed Eaves.
To give some context: York is one win shy of 200 more than legendary BC coach John “Snooks” Kelley. Though he’s still active, Michigan head man Red Berenson is more than 150 wins behind York.
And though the entire tally has taken 32 plus seasons, 191 of those 700 wins have come in the last seven-plus seasons at the Heights for a coach that, like fine wine, seems to get better with age.
“What’s impressive [for York] is that he’s been at three different schools,” said BC associate head coach Mike Cavanaugh, who served under York at Bowling Green and for the past 10 seasons at Boston College. “He took a program at Clarkson and won. He took a program at Bowling Green and won a national championship, and then he took the program here at BC after three straight losing seasons and he just turned it around.”
For Cavanaugh, being mentored by York has gone beyond just the knowledge he’s learned of X’s and O’s.
“All of his hockey accomplishments pale in comparison to the type of human being he is,” said Cavanaugh. “People always say that you can’t say a bad word about Jerry York.
“Every kid that goes through here respects him.”
Even in some cases, that respect is shown through the opposition. Friday night was a perfect example as, after the teams lined up for the traditional handshake, the North Dakota players formed a separate line over at the BC bench, each player shaking York’s hand to offer congratulations.
“Everybody can appreciate the type of coach or the type of mentor [York] is for them,” said Cavanaugh.
When looking at York by the numbers, as mentioned he’s coached three programs: Clarkson, Bowling Green and Boston College. He’s won national championships at two different schools — a feat accomplished by only one other coach, Ned Harkness.
York has won league coach of the year honors in the CCHA (1981-82) and Hockey East (2003-04) and was the Spencer Penrose winner for national coach of the year in 1976-77.
In 32 seasons, York has led 11 teams to the NCAA tournament, including five Frozen Four appearances in the last seven years with Boston College. York’s teams have posted 16 20-plus win seasons, four times winning 30 or more games.
York has coached three Hobey Baker Award winners, 26 first-team All-Americans and seven first-round NHL draft choices.
And with all of this said, York at age 59 still has plenty of years remaining in his coaching legs.
When it comes to longevity, Cavanaugh has a way of giving that perspective.
“Last year, when Jerry got New England coach of the year, he asked me to present the award to him,” Cavanaugh said. “Usually you ask your mentors to do something like that and then it dawned on me: most of his mentors were either passed away or not around.”
Truth be told, York is one of only three active coaches who might have a chance to catch Mason’s record of 924 wins. Boston University’s Jack Parker and Michigan State’s Rick Comley are the only two active coaches near striking distance, but York’s success at BC might indicate he has the edge.
With the pace his Eagles club has set over the last seven seasons, it could take less than eight more years to hit the all-time coaching milestone.
“As people say, the numbers speak for themselves,” said BC senior Ned Havern. “You can’t get that many wins without doing something right.”
“It’s hard for a guy like me who plays a career of 150 games to imagine what 700 wins is,” said BC captain Ryan Shannon, who scored the game-winning goal Friday. “It’s an honor to play under a guy like him, a true Division I coach.”
And maybe that’s why York himself can’t put things into words. It’s possible that 700 wins over the 1,238-game span that he’s coached mean more than just words. It’s an accomplishment that simply has to be admired.
But York deserves his due, and everyone, particularly his players, wants the world to know.
“It’s Coach’s night tonight,” said Shannon. “It’s pretty sweet.”