When Boston College coach Jerry York recorded his 500th win back in 1996, USCHO was in its first year of existence. There was no room for us in many press boxes and some coaches were befuddled by exactly what USCHO was all about.
“What’s this Internet website thing?” one coach asked me, his face clouded with confusion. “Kind of like email or something?”
So when I decided to contact NHL legend Dave Taylor for a feature on York’s milestone — Taylor starred for York at Clarkson — I doubted I’d get through. Taylor was, after all, the Los Angeles Kings General Manager, a very busy man during a very busy part of his season. And I was a nobody writing for an organization nobody had heard of — a kind of email sort of thing.
Taylor’s secretary took my phone number and the message that I was calling regarding a feature on Jerry York, all the while sounding as mystified about USCHO as so many people were back then. I assumed I’d never hear from the GM.
Five minutes later, Taylor called.
He called back a nobody who wrote for an “email or something” publication because the topic was Jerry York. Such is the loyalty that York engenders. Taylor spoke at length with great admiration for his former coach.
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York has earned the admiration of more than his former players. Rival coaches refer to him as the consummate gentleman and “the nicest guy in the business.”
Perhaps at no time did he earn those words more than in one gut-wrenching post-game press conference. BC had just suffered an agonizing loss, the kind that often turns its participants into a maelstrom of emotions.
As was the custom, the losing coach, York, spoke to the media first. That didn’t sit well with one self-important windbag for The New York Times. (The New York Times may be a great newspaper, but nobody reads it for its mind-blowing college hockey content.)
After York answered several questions, the windbag uttered unquestionably the most insulting words I’ve ever witnessed in such a venue.
“Do you think we could get the winning coach out here?” said Mr. The-World-Revolves-Around-Me.
Jerry York flushed but remained polite and in short order excused himself.
Grace under fire. Consummate class.
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Four years after recording his 500th victory, win number 600 came. Although the Eagles would go on to win the national championship that spring, York’s BC teams had only come tantalizingly close to that point.
Bridesmaids but not brides.
They’d been in three straight Four Fours and two national championship games in the three years. But no titles. Some wondered if BC’s drought that dated back to 1949 would ever end.
“You’ve just got to keep knocking on the door,” York would say, sometimes ashen-faced after a tough loss. “Eventually, it will open.”
York was right. The door opened later that year.
It’s opened again three of the last five years with NCAA titles in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Boston College has become the standard against which all other hockey programs are measured.
And Jerry York has now tied Ron Mason for winningest all-time coach with 924 wins. Not too bad for a guy who wasn’t sure how long he’d last in the business.
“I told my wife we’d try it for five years,” York said, “and if nothing came of it I’d get a real job.”