By Melissa Marchionna, student correspondent, BostonBruins.com
In 1970 Jerry York was on his way to Potsdam, New York, to begin his first collegiate coaching gig at Clarkson University.
During the trip, a giant black bear emerged from the woods and made its way across the street in front of the Watertown native's car. Little did the current Boston College head coach know that it would not be the last time a bear would cross his path during his storied coaching career.
After all, Boston College has always been a breeding ground for professional hockey bears -- make that Bruins -- and the school has seen many of its graduates move on to the NHL, and to the Black & Gold, in particular.
Take for instance Andrew Alberts, Bobby Allen, and Chuck Kobasew, all of whom made their way to the TD Banknorth Garden by way of the Heights, where York has coached since 1994.
With 37 years of coaching under his belt, York is the NCAA’s winningest active coach, ranking second on the all time list and with those gaudy numbers, it is not surprising that many notable NHL stars started their careers in maroon and gold.
So what makes Coach York so special as far as college hockey coaches go?
For one thing, York has incorporated the Boston College motto, “Ever to Excel,” into his coaching philosophy and aims to constantly push his team to do their best.
“I don’t care if it’s a practice on Tuesday or a game versus Boston University on a Friday night, we don’t accept pretty good, we want to be excellent,” said York when BostonBruins.com ran into him recently.
“Most teams win and lose, with records around .500,” York explained. “We want to be abnormal.
"We want to be above the pack.
"I don’t expect mediocrity [from my team],” he said.
For the Eagle mentor, those words ring true both on and off the ice.
York, who once dreamed of becoming a high school guidance counselor (he has Masters degree in education along with a CAES in counseling psychology from BC), recognizes the importance of education and a well-rounded perspective.
In fact, he puts so much merit in those qualities that they play an active role when recruiting players.
“The skills are easy [to find],” says York, “but we want someone who will bring something special to BC…great character, good work ethic, and a good teammate.”
And few players more greatly define those qualities than BC alum and Bruins defensemen Bobby Allen.
Allen wore the assistant captain’s “A” for Coach York in 2001 when the Eagles captured the NCAA National Title.
“He’s a great leader,” York said of Allen, “He had tremendous respect from all of his teammates and he had terrific work habits.
“I think he’s a great study of a player that just keep working. He was in the American Hockey League and looked like he was always going to be an AHL hockey player. But he just kept plugging away and now all of a sudden he’s shown he can play in the National Hockey League.
“Bobby is just a great reflection on the Boston College [community],” he said.
And Allen isn’t the only member of the B’s that made a lasting impression on Coach York. “[Andrew Alberts is] a lot like Bobby. He’s got a good work ethic and he’s a real stand up guy.”
As a self-proclaimed life long Bruins fan who grew up idolizing Bobby Orr, York is pleased with what Alberts has done in his past two years with the hometown team.
“He’s made a huge impact on the NHL level. As a second year pro, I thought he was very, very good and he’s only going to get better.”
York is not alone in his assessment of Alberts. In April, Alberts was selected to represent the United States at the World Championships.
“I’m really excited for him,” said York, who mentioned that Alberts shared a room at the championships with his former teammate and current Eagles goaltender, Cory Schneider.
Rounding out the trio of BC alumni who made the Garden their home this year is Chuck Kobasew, who along with Allen was a member of BC's 2001 National Championship team during his freshman year.
Although Kobasew did not appear in many games with Boston this season, York is quick to point out that fans should not be discouraged by the injuries that have nagged him since the trade which brought him to the B's in February.
“I think this is a good situation for Chuck,” he reflected, “He’s coming into a team that really wants him. The concussion hurt him at the end of the season.
But I think he’s going to be a good player.”
BC has a history of producing 'good' NHL players. Besides the Eagles on the current Bruins roster, many, many former B’s are also BC alums—Brian Leetch, Bill Guerin, Bob and Tim Sweeney, and Craig Janney just to name a few.
It’s that kind of legacy that intrigued Allen, himself a Massachusetts native, from a very young age.
“I always wanted to play for BC," Allen explained in an interview with BostonBruins.com earlier this year, "That was the college team I followed growing up, so it was dream to play there.”
But although Allen’s early goals may have been rooted at Boston College, his NHL aspiration were always with Boston.
Because as he says, “There’s nothing like playing for the hometown team.” --- Melissa Marchionna will graduate Boston College this spring and will matriculate at UMass' Sports Management program in the fall