College hockey’s highest individual honor, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, will be presented on Friday, April 10, at Verizon Center on the night between games at the NCAA Frozen Four. Although it, like the Frozen Four, will be coming to a city that isn’t particularly steeped in college hockey history, the nation’s capital does have some ties to the award.
The first is on the Washington Capitals’ staff, leading the team’s recent resurgence and in fact helping to convince the NCAA to bring the Frozen Four to D.C. Vice president and general manager George McPhee won the Hobey in its second year, 1982, when he starred as a senior at Bowling Green.
D.C.’s second tie is not as direct, but still strong. As the nation’s military headquarters, Washington, D.C., is home to a number of monuments and memorials to war heroes – something the award salutes as well.
Hobey Baker was a skilled pilot who flew in World War I and fell to an untimely death at age 26 when testing a plane that had been recently repaired. Before his military career, Baker was a star at Princeton, perhaps the best hockey player ever born in the United States. In fact, many at the time called him the greatest sportsman who ever lived, as he starred on the Princeton football team as well.
Baker’s sportsmanship is almost as legendary as his play. He was penalized just once in his college career, despite routinely playing every minute of every game. Also routine: Baker’s habit of visiting opposing locker rooms after games to thank them and congratulate them on a good game.
The Hobey Baker Award celebrates that spirit of excellence on ice as well as character off it.
“All the variables that go into it make it unique,” said McPhee. “You have to be a good player, you have to be a good student and you have to do the right things away from the ice as well. I was fortunate to have played on a good team that had a heck of a year. I was a senior, I was a captain and my grades were good.”
McPhee was the second in a long line of distinguished Hobey Baker Award winners. Several remain in the NHL today, including Paul Kariya, Chris Drury, Ryan Miller and Jordan Leopold.
While the Frozen Four games are sold out, the Hobey Baker Award presentation is an event that Washington, D.C., fans can take part in during “Friday Night at the Frozen Four.” For $10 tickets, available through Ticketmaster, fans can see the Hobey presentation, the presentation of the Hockey Humanitarian Award and a skills competition featuring 32 men’s and women’s college hockey all-stars.
The field of 10 finalists will be narrowed to three on April 2 when the “Hobey Hat Trick” is announced. In the meantime, here’s a look at each candidate, along with points that will support – or hurt – their chances of winning the award.
Louie Caporusso Michigan Sophomore | Forward Stats: 40 GP, 24-25—49 Why He Might Win: He’s a dynamic offensive player on a team strong enough to earn a No. 1 seed in the tournament. What Might Slow Him Down: One could argue that the Wolverines’ leading scorer, Aaron Palushaj, is more valuable to their success.
Matt Gilroy Boston University Senior | Defense Stats: 41 GP, 8-24—32 Why He Might Win: A heralded NHL free agent, Gilroy has benefited from a lot of hype, as well as a terrific backstory as a former walk-on. He’s a captain on the top overall seed in the tournament. What Might Slow Him Down: There are some who say this hasn’t been the best season of Gilroy’s outstanding career, and he may split votes with his teammate, Colin Wilson.
Chad Johnson Alaska Senior | Goalie 35 GP, 14-16-5, 1.66 GAA, .940 sv. pct., 6 SO Why He Might Win: An outstanding goaltender who was the cornerstone of a team that finished fourth in the CCHA despite low expectations. What Might Slow Him Down: It’s not easy to get attention in Alaska, and tougher when your teammates provide the miniscule goal support that Johnson received (averaging less than two goals per game).
Zane Kalemba Princeton Junior | Goalie Stats: 33 GP, 22-9-1, 1.74 GAA, .935 sv. pct., 2 SO Why He Might Win: The ECAC Hockey Player of the Year made a name for himself in Princeton’s tournament run last season and was even better this year. What Might Slow Him Down: It’s notoriously tough for goalies to win the Hobey – Robb Stauber and Ryan Miller are the only ones who have.
Jacques Lamoureux Air Force Sophomore | Forward Stats: 39 GP, 32-20—52 Why He Might Win: He boasts other-worldly stats and led a team that raced to a 13-0-0 start, garnering national attention. He has a great story of determination to get to the Academy as well. What Might Slow Him Down: Air Force plays in Atlantic Hockey, one of the two weaker conferences in the game. That will surely make some question his ability.
Jamie McBain Wisconsin Junior | Defense Stats: 40 GP, 7-30—37 Why He Might Win: The lone WCHA player on the list, he could corner the market on Western votes. More importantly, he was the WCHA Player of the Year, pretty impressive for a defenseman in a very good conference. What Might Slow Him Down: The Badgers fell short of the tournament, which robs McBain of a chance to showcase his skills this weekend (he signed with the Carolina Hurricanes instead).
David McIntyre Colgate Junior | Forward Stats: 37 GP, 21-22—43 Why He Might Win: Colgate's star scorer is one of the most talented players and best pro prospects among the 10 finalists, and ranks in the top-20 nationally in points and top-10 in goals. What Might Slow Him Down: He's still a bit of an unknown on the national scene, playing at a small school in Colgate that finished near the bottom of the ECAC Hockey standings and never contended for an NCAA Tournament berth.
Viktor Stalberg Vermont Junior | Forward Stats: 36 GP, 23-20—43 Why He Might Win: Arguably the top offensive player in Hockey East, which is arguably the nation’s toughest conference this year. Led the Catamounts back to the tournament for the first time since 1997. What Might Slow Him Down: Came a bit out of nowhere after being third on the team in scoring last season. If he sticks in school, next season could be his year.
Brad Thiessen Northeastern Junior | Goalie Stats: 40 GP, 25-11-4, 2.09 GAA, .932 sv. pct., 3 SO Why He Might Win: Most likely the best of the three goalies in the finalist group, he has led a resurgence at Northeastern that has elevated a once-sorry program to NCAA Tournament status. What Might Slow Him Down: He hasn’t been his very best in the biggest games – losing in the Beanpot final, the final night of the regular season with the Hockey East title on the line, and in the Hockey East semifinals.
Colin Wilson Boston University Sophomore | Forward Stats: 39 GP, 15-35—50 Why He Might Win: The most dynamic player and the leading scorer for the top-seeded Terriers, and this award tends to follow around the best team. It’s impossible not to notice him when BU plays. What Might Slow Him Down: He’s just a sophomore and may lose some support to his senior co-captain, Matt Gilroy.