BOSTON — With so much hardware given out at the end of the college hockey season, it’s easy to be dismissive about the recipients, especially those players honored for what they do on the ice.
Five minutes with Mike Richter Award winner Zane McIntyre, however, can soften even the most jaded of fans.
2015 Frozen Four
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McIntyre backstopped North Dakota to 29 wins this season and the team’s second consecutive trip to the Frozen Four, but as instrumental as his position is, he credited many others for contributing to his success, everyone from “past coaches in youth rinks” to his mother, Kelly, his sister, Jade, and “especially Grandma Susie as well.”
It was McIntyre’s grandmother — his mother’s mother — Susan McIntyre, a professor of Occupational Therapy at the University of North Dakota, who brought McIntyre to his first UND hockey game when he was nine months old. Susan McIntyre also ferried McIntyre and his sister — who was also a goaltender — to hockey events near and far as his mother worked to support the family.
For one memorable trip, McIntyre’s grandmother took him, his sister and McIntyre’s good friend Alex Lyon — the Yale sophomore from Baudette, Minn., who was also nominated for this year’s Mike Richter Award — to a camp in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
“I had to go with,” said Kelly McIntyre, “because we took my van with equipment because we had three goalies and all their stuff, and my mom drove a little Toyota. I got them in the hotel and got them situated and I left and went back to work. She stayed for the whole weekend in a little hotel room with three kids.”
It is experiences like these that helped shape McIntyre into the kind of well-rounded person that Mike Richter himself would like to see his namesake award continue to recognize.
“I think one of the beauties of college athletics is the balance you have to have in your life in order to do both,” said Richter, who presented the award to McIntyre on Friday. “It’s very, very demanding on the ice, on the court and in the classroom. The goal is to hopefully develop well-rounded adults.”
Richter, who played for Wisconsin for two seasons (1985-87), said that he’s seen the position of goaltender become even more important to hockey since his playing days, putting goalies under unprecedented pressures. And as so many goaltenders playing now record unprecedented statistics, it takes more than just numbers to make a player distinguished.
“I feel a tremendous sense of connection to these kids. You want to see them have success in their lives,” said Richter. “They’ve worked hard. You listen to the words they choose, how humble they are, how much accomplishment they have, how quickly they spread it around, how important they are to their team. I think it’s important to honor those things outside of the statistics that they have on the ice. These intangibles, these things that make them a good person, will pave the way to success. I think that they should be recognized as much as the measurable stats.
“On the ice, it is those intangibles — his athletic instinct, his poise, his work ethic, his level of competition — that make Zane one of the true elite players in college hockey, not just goaltenders. And his high level of play has been matched by consistency. This is the real hallmark of a champion. It’s not enough to go out there and play well, once, twice … it’s game in, game out when you’re giving your team a chance to win.”
McIntyre himself credited UND with helping him with more than just hockey.
“They’ve done a tremendous job taking [me from when I was] a boy when I was 19 years old at the time getting done with juniors [to] really becoming a man,” he said.
“A lot of that culture really starts with Coach [Dave] Hakstol and what we have going with the University of North Dakota because everything’s top-notch — our facilities, our attitudes, what we expect year in, year out. It really shapes and molds you to be a complete person more so than an athlete. Going to school, the daily rigors of waking up sore and exhausted from the weekend’s battles and the week of practice and from there continuing your workday at the rink, it’s really a lot of life lessons that you get to learn at the college level, especially at North Dakota.”
In three seasons with North Dakota, McIntyre has a cumulative save percentage of .926, an overall GAA of 2.10 and a win percentage of .687. Here in Boston, the local press wants to know if McIntyre will return to UND next season or join the Bruins organization, which holds his draft rights.
After the way he talked about the Mike Richter Award, no one was surprised when McIntyre said that he needed to consult his extended family — which is really everyone who matters to him — before making that decision.
“Everything’s really new and really fresh with what happened last night, and I don’t think it would be fair to myself, my family, my current teammates as well to make a decision that quickly,” said McIntyre. “I think it’s definitely going to take some time to see what happens and really get perspectives from everybody in my life. I’ll know when the time’s right.”