Try as he might to downplay the news of his retirement, last week’s announcement that Jerry York was stepping down as the Boston College men’s hockey coach was not going to be enough.
Not for the players, both past and present from his 28 years behind the BC bench. Not for York’s friends and family. And certainly not for the BC athletics department.
And so it was that a large group gathered in the Murray Room on the fourth floor of the Yawkey Athletics Center for York’s farewell news conference, which aired live on NESN Tuesday.
The broadcast opened with messages of thanks and congratulations from former players Kevin Hayes, Bobby Allen, Johnny Gaudreau, Matt Price, and Marc McLaughlin. Former players in attendance included Jerry Buckley, Tim Kelleher, Ryan Shannon, David Hymovitz, Tom Ashe, Chris Masters, and Andy Powers.
Associate vice president and university spokesman Jack Dunn introduced York as “the winningest coach in NCAA history, the most beloved coach in the history of Boston College, an unparalleled ambassador for the university, and one of the finest individuals and gentlemen that ever graced this campus.”
With that, York, 76, entered the room and received the first of two standing ovations. After athletic director Pat Kraft read just a portion of the Hall of Famer’s accomplishments in 50 years of coaching, including 1,123 wins, nine Hockey East tournament titles, 12 Hockey East regular-season championships, five national championships (four with BC), and multiple coach of the year awards, York addressed the crowd of more than 150.
York thanked his wife, Bobbie, and recalled the time when he was in his first coaching job at Clarkson and his father-in-law asked when he was getting a real job.
“I said, ‘Probably 10 years or so, and I’ll be ready,’ ” York said, drawing laughter.
John Hegarty, the director of hockey operations and York’s first hire at BC in 1994, was in attendance.
“He’s been my right-hand guy for 28 years and certainly been one of my top hires here,” said York.
York told the story about how after he won his first national title with Bowling Green in 1984, he got a congratulatory call from President Ronald Reagan, only to take the phone and realize it was his brother Bill doing an impression of Reagan.
He also acknowledged that he had opportunities to coach in the NHL. There were two that he seriously considered, one with the Capitals and another with the Kings. But each time he chose to stick with BC.
“This is where I belong. I wake up every day and drive 4 miles, and I’m here at BC,” said York. “I had 50 years and I never got fired. At the NHL level, you’re going to get four years and you’re going to get fired, and then you’re going to wait six months and someone else is going to hire you, and you’re back on the pro merry-go-round.”
Among members of the athletic department in attendance were baseball coach Mike Gambino and football coach Jeff Hafley. When Hafley was hired in 2019, he spoke of the kindness York showed him, welcoming him to the BC community and inviting him into the locker room to meet the players.
Hafley was happy to return the favor, sitting toward the front of the room and nodding his head in agreement as Kraft called York “the standard we all live up to. He is a great hockey coach, he is a better person. He’s one of the finest human beings I’ve ever been around my entire life.”
When the news conference was over, Hafley spoke with York, extending an open invitation to come to practice or the locker room.
Maybe York will take him up on the offer, but Tuesday was not the day to decide what was next for the legendary coach.
“There’s an old Jewish saying that, ‘Man makes all of these elaborate plans, and then God just laughs,’ ” said York. “We can map out what we’re going to do over the next 10 years, but who knows? I want to just wake up every day and be excited about the day coming, and let’s see what happens.”
Follow Andrew Mahoney on Twitter @GlobeMahoney.