MEN'S HOCKEY: Living Like An Eagle
York Still Hasn’t Changed, Even With The Ultimate Record In Sight
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
A team will follow its leader, and the Eagles have a perfect example of humility in their leader, as York is never one to bring attention upon himself, starting with the wins record. It is tough to get him to talk about the milestone because it’s not what York is about.
“Jerry’s a type of guy who’s just not impressed with himself and his accomplishments,” Bill York said. “Jerry’s very competitive, loves to compete—he and I compete as hard on the golf course as some of the kids compete on the ice. But he’s always had a sense of humility to him, and I think that has served him very, very well in the game. Jerry’s a team guy, and that’s why individual accolades, to him, are a distraction. It’s the team that matters.”
Players like Brian Gibbons, who graduated from BC in 2011 and won national championships with York in 2008 and 2010, said that the team-first mentality is good for everyone on the team, and it makes hockey more fun to play.
“It makes you a lot closer as a team,” Gibbons said. “No one is worried about individual stat—everyone just wants to win. A lot of times, guys will be happier and more excited when other guys score than when they do. If you look at the bench after a goal, all the boys are always jumping around and hugging. Winning is where the real fun is at.”
Cross echoed Gibbons’ sentiment, and said that one way York got his teams to buy into the mentality was by showing film of players like Gibbons who demonstrated selfless hockey.
“I think repetition of preaching it over and over and pointing out positive examples of when a guy like Brian Gibbons doesn’t care about getting an assist but sells out to block a shot,” Cross said. “I remember frequent examples of watching on tape when [York] showed a guy being a team guy instead of an individual. Cam Atkinson scores a highlight-reel goal and instead of fist-pumping and jumping into the glass, he’s pointing at Brian Gibbons for the assist, saying ‘Great play.’ I think it’s stuff like that that he points out and he’s repetitive in hammering that message home that it is team before individual.”
Winning trophies has been a hallmark of York’s time at BC, but it likely wouldn’t be if not for the way he serves as a role model for his players off the ice.
“The biggest reason that BC is so successful year in and year out is because he’s at the head of the charge,” Cross said. “He’s at the top, and he sets the tone for the whole program and the culture of the program. That’s his beliefs on being a good person and being a good citizen and caring about others and being positive and all that other stuff. He really had an effect on me that way—just being a good person to be around and bringing energy and believing in your morals and your values and sticking to that.”
The type of person that York is and the qualities he exudes were visible to Cross ever since he was recruited by the coach. Like many other players, Cross immediately bought in because of what he saw in York.
“He didn’t really sell much, because the thing to sell is himself, and he never talks about himself,” Cross said. “But I think when you meet him and you come to BC for the first time, you know what a legend he is, and that kind of speaks for itself.
When Cross came on his visit to Chestnut Hill, the first thing that York introduced him to was not the weight room, the equipment he’d have at his fingertips, or even all the banners hanging in Kelley Rink.
Instead, York took Cross to meet Rev. Tony Penna, the director of campus ministry and the chaplain for the hockey team.
“He said this is one of the best people that you’re going to meet here, and this is an example of what BC offers,” Cross remembered. “And I think that just goes along with coach York’s whole philosophy for the program—[if] you do things the right way and you focus on the right things, then the material things like banners and equipment and trophies, those things will follow.”
Penna has been around the program since 1998, and has seen firsthand the effect that York has had on the players that have come through BC.
When he first met York, Penna was introduced to some of the hockey players who were still in Chestnut Hill to train during the summer, and was impressed with the relationships they had with their coach.
“I remember marveling at the natural rapport Jerry had with his players, and even more impressively how at ease they were with him,” Penna said. “That first impression has survived the test of time. His relationship to his players is as genuine and natural today as it was when we first met in 1998.”
That relationship is a caring one, and York’s former players still point to that as a unique aspect of the coach.
“There’s a lot of things that make Coach special, but most importantly is how much he cares about everyone and everything involved with BC,” Gibbons said.
Often, there can be a difficult line for a coach to walk on in terms of caring for players, while still getting the most productivity out of them on the ice. The balance that York has successfully struck is something that Cross admired about him as a coach.
“Coach is such a positive guy, energetic, and he’s such a friendly guy,” Cross said. “But at the same time, he’s very—I don’t know how to say it—but I guess he’s very demanding in a great way, where through his personality, it’s clear what he expects of you.
While some coaches choose to scream and yell to get their point across, York gets his point across without having to raise his voice. The personality he maintains as a coach makes his players want to succeed and perform to the best of their abilities for him.
“With Coach, it’s within his personality, but at the same time, the message is just as forceful,” Cross said. “He doesn’t have to yell and scream because of the respect that he gets. You know what play is demanded of you from him. You know you have to produce whatever he’s asking for.”