Bill Belichick inspires BC hockey team

BOSTON -- The call came in to Boston College men's hockey coach Jerry York and his itinerary was quickly altered. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick had plans to be in Boston later that day and hoped to visit York's team.

York happily obliged, opening up his dressing room for Belichick, who took center stage for 45 minutes.

"You could hear a pin drop in the room, all eyes locked on him," York recalled Sunday, the day after his club captured the Hockey East regular-season title. "You could just tell there is a great connection there with Bill and players."

York credited Belichick's motivational words -- which came last Tuesday -- as a catalyst for the team winning the regular-season championship, which the Eagles sewed up with a come-from-behind 4-3 win over New Hampshire on Saturday.

The connection between Belichick and York began seven years ago when former BC football coach Tom O'Brien introduced them. Since that time, York said he's regularly received notes from Belichick whenever the Eagles won a big game or a championship, the letters often mentioning a trait Belichick noticed from watching the team play.

Belichick had addressed York's team seven years ago, and York reached out to him earlier this season to see if a return visit would be possible. Belichick obliged after his return from the NFL combine in Indianapolis.

"We were excited that he could come over and visit with us. It was outstanding," said York, now in his 16th season as BC coach. "He came into our dressing room, with our coaching staff and our players. We opened it up to questions after he talked.

"It was very informative for all of us -- whether from my perspective as a coach, an assistant coach or just players. He said something along the lines of, 'I might not know a lot about hockey, but I know a little about winning and putting together a team.' Of course, we all respect what he's done with the Pats. Our players, for the most part, are all brought up around this area. They are glued to that TV every Sunday."

One exchange that stood out to York came when captain Joe Whitney asked Belichick about the challenge of repeating as Super Bowl champions. The BC hockey team won the national championship last year and is eyeing a repeat.

Belichick told the players that one key was to maintain a short-term focus.

"You want to be better on Monday than you were on Sunday. You want to be better next week than you were this week. There is no long range," York said of Belichick's message.

"It was 'let's get better each day' and the focus had to be on that particular practice, that particular period. I thought that concept of short-term focus was great for our kids to hear. The national championship is like a Super Bowl to us, our community, our players and our school."

York also recalled the message Belichick had delivered seven years ago. It focused on the importance of execution, and he used a unique example to drive his point home.

"You can have the best game plans possible and do all your research, have it all detailed, but it was like Wile E. Coyote trying to catch the Road Runner," York recalled. "Wile E. Coyote would have all these masterful plans -- he was going to catch him, he had dynamite -- but unless you execute it … That's what Wile E. Coyote could never do, catch the Road Runner.

"It's one thing to say, 'Here's how we're going to play the hockey game tomorrow night -- we're going to forecheck, here's our power play, here's our sets' -- but unless you execute it's all for naught."

In Belichick's two visits, York said his sense of humor came to the fore, as did his level of comfort when speaking to a team.

Now York is looking forward to visiting Belichick's club. Plans are in the works for York, along with his staff, to visit the Patriots' offseason minicamps.

Although the two coaches are involved in different sports, York sees a "carryover effect," such as relationships with players, preparation and emphasizing how teams win games. They also both like to golf, with York having invited Belichick to play at Oakley Country Club in Watertown.

As for another message that Belichick delivered to his hockey players, York said Belichick stressed that "dependability is just as important as ability."

"Everyone is excited the first week of training camp, or the first time you put skates on, but it's that daily grind," he said. "If you want to be the best, it's day after day after day, and pushing yourself to get better. There's a lot of self-improvement. You can tell he's not wishy-washy on that."

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.