Saturday, Boston College defeated Alabama-Huntsville, 4-2, in a non-conference game which normally would be fairly non-descript. What made the game remarkable was the win allowed long-time Boston College head coach Jerry York to register his 925th career win and set a record for most coaching wins in NCAA history. York, who previously coached Clarkson and Bowling Green, broke a record previously set by Ron Mason who coached Lake Superior State, Bowling Green and Michigan State.
During York's tenure at Boston College, the Eagles have become one of the standard-bearers in college hockey having won four national titles since York became coach in 994 while also producing several NHLers.
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik (right, during his junior season of 2000-01) is one of those NHLers. Having been drafted in the first-round of 2000, Orpik, who played three seasons for Boston College, is one of the program's most successful alumni in the NHL. Recently, he talked about the record and his time playing for York.
On York getting the record:
“I definitely think the accomplishment speaks for itself. Anyone who knows him, knows he wanted to get to the next game as soon as possible. He hates the spotlight on him. I think its more an indication the type of people he brings in. Obviously, he recruits really well and his assistants recruit really well. Without speaking for him, I think the 925 is just a number for him. It sounds pretty clichéd but for him, I think it really is. He takes a lot of pride in bringing good people or good kids. You really are a kid when you’re 17. He just likes to mold the kids. I think when he recruits, it’s not just the best players. He tries to identify people he thinks are going to represent the program well and just try to develop them into better people. Looking back on my time, that’s the greatest thing he did for me. They’ve had a lot of success hockey-wise but if you look at the graduation rate … knock on wood, you don’t see too many kids getting into trouble there. There’s really no nonsense. He doesn’t have a lot of rules. I know the whole time I was there, and I’m sure it hasn’t changed at all, the only rule he has is, ‘Don’t embarrass the program.’ I guess you could come up with a huge list of rules which fall under that. If you don’t respect the program, he usually finds a way to get rid of you. But he does a good job of bringing in good people. He doesn’t face too many situations like that.”
What makes York and Boston College so successful at recruiting? Is it the championships and the track record of getting players to the NHL?
"I think that stuff is what draws kids’ interest before he talks to them. It’s gotten to the point now they would never say that. It seems a little arrogant. They’ve had so much success and built up so much respect for the program, kids kind of come to them now. It’s their job to identify if there are kids that they foresee being a problem down the line, weeding those kids out. It’s not just him. The assistants do the bulk of the recruiting and Jerry comes in and closes the deal. I think just his icon is really what draws people to the program in the first place."
In what ways did playing for York (right, with his 2010 NCAA championship-winning team) make you successful as an NHLer?
"I look back on it, I wish I could do my fourth year, even now. That was obviously a really tough decision for me (becoming a professional). I think your maturity away from the game … just in terms of you have your classes, you have your schoolwork, you have your workouts, you have your classes, you have your practices, your games and obviously in college, you try to have a decent social life. I think balancing that schedule at that age and learning to balance and manage your time, I think that’s the greatest thing you get through going to college. For me, just trying to manage my time … I think at your stage of your career, you learn how disciplined you need to be in terms of your training, diet, lifting (weights), stuff like that. Time management is probably the biggest thing I took away from there."
On ice, what makes that program so successful?
"I think practice habits really. Every day is a new day. You come in and as soon as you get there, there’s always a plan going into every day. Whatever time you get there for practice, there’s a plan on the board. You know exactly what you’re doing workout-wise or video-wise. I think there’s always a plan there. One of the greatest qualities Jerry has is his enthusiasm. From the first day of the season to a cloudy, gray day in January, he’s still that same ‘uppy’ guy with his enthusiasm. Hockey-wise with systems, if you watch the team this year, year after year, the speed they play with is something that gives other teams troubles, especially with transition. The transition game is something always worked on there."
What's the biggest lesson you received from playing for York?
"I think just giving back. Just the importance of sharing that knowledge that you accumulate and acquire as your career goes on. I know he likes having guys like myself or other guys who are alumni from the program going back and being around (the current players) and just trying to share some of the knowledge and pass it on to them. That’s one thing he’s always preaching and it goes along with the type of person he is. He’s a real selfless person. He loves giving back rather than taking."
(Photos: Orpik-Associated Press; York-Elsa/Getty Images)