Friday, October 20, 2017

The Twenty-Five Year Team: First Team picks

This season marks my twenty-fifth following the team.

Because of that 25 year appreciation for this great sport and great college, I often get asked: “who are some of the best players you’ve ever seen?”

That’s a tough one.

Over that quarter century I’ve seen some pretty remarkable players take the ice. As a matter of fact, each one is remarkable in his own way – in a brotherhood like hockey, everyone contributes something some way, somehow. That’s what makes it the ultimate team sport.

But, there are some guys who stood out and provided an extra level of excitement, some guys who will one day adorn the Brockport Athletics Hall of Fame.

Below is my First Team. I will announce the Second Team in the coming days.  

Some of the gents played the whole four seasons. Some may have spent just one with the Golden Eagles. Others might have had just one breakout year. Anyway you put it, they left a lasting impression on this fan, the team, and the Brockport community.


Forward: James Cody (2008-2009 through 2011-2012). James was, in my opinion and likely that of many others, the most exciting player to ever have laced up his skates at Tuttle North. And, for sure, we will never see anyone like him again. The man could score, ranking sixth all-time at Brockport with 116 points thanks to a 60-56-116 line. Every season he exceeded 24 points. He could do that with speed and unmatched physicality and strength. Those assets also made him the most feared hitter ever at Brockport as he leveled many, many opponents with open ice hits and checks (you will never see that again in the modern or future NCAA). He was the program’s first-ever All-American and the SUNYAC Player of the Year when he had a 19-15-34 line. He was a pure athlete who could have excelled in any sport he wanted to focus on. Thank God he chose hockey. 

James Cody destroyed Postdam in 2 playoff games, just as he did every team he faced

Forward: Dave McNab (2006-2007 through 2008-2009). Dave spent two-a-half seasons with Brockport after having started his career at Plattsburgh. He took advantage of his playing time and become captain as a senior. It is that final season that puts him on the all-time team. He was the ultimate team captain. Sure, Brockport has had many fine ones, but he took it to another level: If opponents tangled with our goalies he would obliterate (or choke) them, he was in constant professional discussion with the refs, and he inspired the team to become physical like no other. That season and the season that followed were the most physical of all our teams (and likely the last due to newer NCAA rules) and they truly intimidated opponents. It was old time hockey at its finest. But, don’t let that tough exterior fool you – Dave is a nice guy and a skilled player. In that captaincy he had 26 points and 11 goals courtesy of a wicked slapshot that was expertly played out in power play situations.

Forward: Bobby Garrison (1996-1997 to 1999-2000): The numbers tell the story. Bobby is the all-time leader in points (156), goals (72), assists (84) and power play goals (26). He was 175 pounds of bottled lightning – fast and elusive with unparalleled vision. He was a human highlight reel which makes it too bad that he played just a few years before the internet, smartphones, and modern videography came to be. He was SUNYAC Rookie of the Year and a two-time member of All-SUNYAC Squads. If Brockport wasn’t coming out of its lean years during his reign of terror on opposing defenses, he likely would have received more accolades and All-American consideration. To put his greatness into context consider this: Fans of recent years are familiar with Chase Nieuwendyk’s absolutely brilliant career and his 101 point career total. Garrison’s output was 56% higher. It’s almost unfathomable to think about that. 

Defenseman: Chris Luker (2012-2013 through 2015-2016): During the last 3 years of his Brockport career I gave the young man plenty of coverage on the hockey blog. Why? He was that good. He was an excellent rangy defenseman who became Brockport’s only 3-time All-SUNYAC honoree. He has what is the most magical offensive output of any Golden Eagle blueliner. He had seasons of 22, 23, and 17 points – output you would expect from a first or second line forward, not a defenseman. He was a joy to watch, not only for his firepower but his consistency…he rarely had cold patches or hot hands – he wasn’t streaky at all; every game was a consistently excellent as the previous. That’s what you want from a d-man.

Defenseman: Mike Gershon (2005-2006 through 2008-2009): Mike was the lead blueliner on my favorite squad (the 2008-2009 team, which I will discuss in a future post). Hard hitting. Focused. Brilliant. Those words define his junior and senior years, which is why he was All-SUNYAC in his last year. That season, he also did the unprecedented: When did you ever hear of a defenseman having a hat trick? The senior year 8-9-17 stat line with 57 penalty minutes shows the explosiveness (skill-wise and physically) he brought to the ice. He would absolutely punish opponents in the corners. His hitting was textbook, too – I imagine every time he laid into someone he thought of himself going through them.   

Todd Sheridan beat cancer and became the greatest goalie in Brockport history

Goalie: Todd Sheridan (2006-2007 through 2009-2010): Todd is without a doubt the greatest goalie in Brockport history and some could argue its greatest player, too, if not it’s most important. Every major career goaltending record belongs to him: Goals against average (3.07), save percentage (.904), wins (29) and shutouts (5). He gave the team confidence to do anything they wanted offensively in front of him, because he had the attitude and performance (from textbook saves to Hasek-like freakish plays) to stymie the toughest of opponents and get into their heads. He was transformative, too, being instrumental in helping the College’s program develop a high-profile name for itself (which aided in recruiting, filling the stands and maintaining greatness). It’s not a coincidence that so many excellent goalies – and playoff years-- have come after his successful run. He paved the way. On top of that, as a player, the cancer survivor initiated the Saves For a Cure charity that gave tens of thousands of dollars to local cancer clinics for children.