For three minutes and 39 seconds, Boston College Athletics Director Pat Kraft listed off accomplishments. Almost without stopping to take a breath between his words, Kraft detailed three minutes and 39 seconds worth of records broken, championships won, and players impacted.
Those three minutes and 39 seconds were part of a tribute to Jerry York, the winningest head coach in NCAA hockey history, who announced his retirement on Wednesday. York, BC ’67, spoke in front of family, friends, media members, and past and present players on Monday, reflecting on a 50-year, hall-of-fame coaching career.
“One of the things I enjoy the most about BC is not power plays, penalty killing, and certainly not traveling back from the West Coast on a red-eye from recruiting, but the relationships I have with other people,” York said. “I’ll miss hockey, but I’ll miss more the relationships I have every day here.”
In his 28 years as the head coach at BC, York amassed four national championships and finished his career with 1,123 wins.
“They say records are meant to be broken,” Kraft said. “That one will never be broken.”
For the first time in five decades, York will no longer stand behind a team’s bench, where he said the “juice” of entering overtime tied 2–2 is a feeling unrivaled by any other experience. When York won his first national championship with the Eagles—a 3–2 overtime victory over North Dakota in 2001—that “juice” was on full display.
“I almost broke my left ankle jumping off the bench there,” York said.
But when the lights fade and the confetti settles on the ice, York said he will most strongly remember the times he almost made it—when his team went so far just to come up short. For three years in a row from 1997–98 to 1999–2000, York’s teams made it to the national title game before falling in heartbreaking fashion three years in a row.
“You think right away of trophies and championships,” York said. “But I think of a number of times where we came real close to winning and didn’t.”
Those failures, though, set the stage for York’s unrivaled staying power at the helm of BC’s program. Just six years into his tenure at BC, York had made three trips to the Frozen Four, rocketing himself and his team into the spotlight. One year later, BC had its first national title in York’s tenure.
Because of his success with BC, York entertained job offers from a number of NHL teams. He only seriously considered two offers over his career—one each from the Washington Capitals and the Los Angeles Kings—but at the end of the day, York said he knew he was in the right place.
“I just said ‘Hey, this is where I belong. This is where I wake up every day,’” York said. “This is where I belong. And I was smart enough to recognize that—I’ve got a BC degree, you know.”