Champion Eagles Are Basking in the Glow

Champion Eagles Are Basking in the Glow

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

The players' lounge adjacent to the Boston College hockey locker room has become a treasure trove of trappings from the Eagles' dream season.
The NCAA championship banner that was unfurled in Albany's Pepsi Arena on April 7 dominates one wall, a row of gleaming trophies sits on a bookshelf, and virtually every other surface is covered with newspaper clippings, civic proclamations and congratulatory letters from BC hockey alumni and Eagle fans across the country. All celebrate the University's first national title in 52 years.

The Boston College hockey team may be the toast of the nation, but Head Coach Jerry York still likes his oatmeal and a morning stop at Dunkin' Donuts. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

But the real symbol of the team's season of success, says Coach Jerry York, is a row of five black rubber disks neatly tacked by the door. Each of the five pucks commemorates a championship game won by the Eagles during the 2000-01 campaign, he said, and represents a step along the way to this team's remarkable year.

"We wanted to signify the season as a journey," York said in a recent interview. "You can't define a whole season on one play or one period of a game. We wanted to visualize what we had all along as our goal."

BC captured the first championship puck in October with a victory in the Maverick Stampede tournament in Omaha. The second disk came in February when the Eagles won the Beanpot crown with a 5-3 victory over cross-town rival Boston University, the third and fourth with the Hockey East regular season and tournament championships.

The final spot on the wall was reserved for the NCAA puck that would come from a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over defending champion North Dakota in the title game.

"Part of winning that championship is now being able to share the experience and good feeling with all of the people that we are connected to," York said. "A part of that championship belongs to our students, our faculty, our alumni, subway alumni, the guys who work on our rink crew. We are all part of the extended Boston College family."

The champion Eagles are still reveling in the wake of their victory. The team has received an invitation to visit the White House this spring. The date of the visit has not yet been determined.

One day's mail last week included a hand-written note of congratulations from US Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), as well as a request from a youngster in Toledo, Ohio, seeking an autograph on a hockey trading card.

The BC-North Dakota championship game, which was decided by sophomore Krys Kolanos' goal 4:43 into overtime, has been rebroadcast on the ESPN Classic Sports Network - the first college hockey game to be shown on that outlet.

Taking a cue from NHL teams that have won the Stanley Cup in recent years, York is letting each member of the hockey team take the winning trophy for a day. It will be permanently placed in the Conte Forum display case at the end of the semester, he said.

York singled out one of the more than 500 letters that he has received since winning the championship earlier this month. "It was from an alumnus in California," York said. "He said even writing the words 'national champions' on the paper made him feel good."

The Eagles' NCAA title was especially rewarding for former BC players, many of whom had enjoyed outstanding athletic careers but had never been a part of a national championship season, York said.

One former player went up to All-American senior co-captain Brian Gionta just before the April 9 University celebration for the team, York said, and told him, "'You've had a great year. I wore that same number [12] on my sweater, too.'"

York said Gionta immediately recognized the player as former All-American forward Bill Daley, '61, a member of the school's Hall of Fame who scored the first goal in BC's original campus rink, McHugh Forum.

"That's part of the feeling that we have here," York explained.

"There has been a great sense of personal satisfaction in this for me, too," said York, a 1967 BC graduate. "I loved the time I spent as coach at Clarkson and Bowling Green, but there is so much more of a sense of belonging at your own school.

"There are so few head coaching jobs out there, that very few of us ever have the opportunity to attain [a championship] at our alma mater."

York recalled his meeting with then University President J. Donald Monan, SJ, the night he took the head coaching job seven years ago. "I went up to see Father at about 11 o'clock at night. He was so calm, and he told me 'It's going to take you a while, Jerry, not a day or a month. But you know and I know that Boston College hockey is going to be very good again.'"

Boston College's NCAA hockey title is an accomplishment shared by few eastern schools, York noted. "In the 54 years that we have had the NCAA Tournament, eastern teams have won it only 13 times," he said. "And, only six schools [BC, Boston University, Cornell, Harvard, Maine and RPI] have won it in those 13 seasons."

York also pointed out that the three teams the Eagles defeated in this year's championship tournament - Michigan, Maine and North Dakota - have won six of the last eight NCAA crowns. "They are the 'iron' of college hockey," York said.

The soft-spoken and unassuming York is unfazed by the sudden increase of attention. He still stops for his morning coffee at the Watertown Square Dunkin' Donuts each day, and his pre-game breakfast always includes a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and cream. "At this age, you establish routines in your life," he laughed.

Like winning more championships?

"[North Dakota coach] Dean Blais sent us a letter congratulating BC on breaking the '52-year hex' in winning the championship, and said 'now you've got the 30-year hex' for teams who have tried to repeat."

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