Boston University's Gilroy Glad He Decided to Stay With Terriers One More Year
Friday, April 10, 2009
There haven't been many times during Jack Parker's 36 seasons as Boston University coach that his players haven't heeded his advice when he suggests they are ready to move on to the NHL. When Parker told Matt Gilroy he was prepared to make the jump to the next level, the coach approached his recruiting assuming he would be without the two-time all-American. He even gave the scholarship away.
Despite being one of the most sought-after free agents in hockey, though, with offers from no fewer than 23 NHL teams, Gilroy decided to return to the Terriers for his senior season. It marked the second time he didn't listen to Parker when the coach told him to not come to Boston.
"When I first got to BU he told me he didn't have a spot, that maybe I shouldn't come," Gilroy said with a smile. "I didn't listen to him this time, either, and came back. I thought maybe I should go, but it never felt right."
Four years after he showed up at Agganis Arena hoping to crack the lineup as a walk-on, Gilroy has helped lead the Terriers to their first Frozen Four appearance since 1997. And with yesterday's 5-4 win over Vermont in the NCAA semifinals at Verizon Center, Boston University will make its 10th appearance in the national championship on Saturday when it faces Miami (Ohio), which ended Cinderella Bemidji State's season with a 4-1 win in last night's first game.
Gilroy is also a finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, hockey's version of the Heisman Trophy, which will be presented tonight at 7 at Verizon Center. The other finalists are Northeastern junior goaltender Brad Thiessen and Boston sophomore forward Colin Wilson.
Heading into the semifinal, Vermont (22-12-5) was the only team in the country with a winning record against Gilroy and top-ranked Boston (34-6-4). The Catamounts battled back from an early two-goal deficit and held a single-goal lead twice but the Terriers refused to let their season end with another loss to Vermont, who finished off BU's 2007-08 season in the Hockey East semifinals.
"He didn't want to leave his fellow seniors without getting a better end to things," Parker said. "I was assuring his parents that every other guy I've had leave at the end of their junior year always got their degree. And his mother said that's not the point, he came in with these guys, he should leave with these guys. He can't leave them."
Family, whether biological or in the form of his Terriers teammates, has long been a driving force in many of Gilroy's decisions. In addition to closing out his college career with his roommates and best friends -- fellow seniors John McCarthy, Steve Smolinsky, Chris Higgins, Jason Lawrence and Brandon Yip -- Gilroy could also become an unrestricted free agent if he waited until he was 25 to turn pro and not be limited to the NHL's entry-level contracts.
But most importantly, if he stayed, Gilroy could play with his younger brother, Kevin, for the first time.
"I never asked Matt to stay for me," said Kevin Gilroy, a freshman forward. "I would have been happy with either decision, [but] when he decided to come back it meant a lot. I've looked up to Matt my whole life, to have him showing me the way. I knew how important it was for him, too, that we got to play together."
When Gilroy went out for his first mite hockey team, it wasn't Kevin but another younger brother, Timmy, who also went to the rink. The only number they knew at the time was Wayne Gretzky's 99, so when it came time to pick numbers and someone had already selected it, Gilroy opted for 98 and Timmy for 97.
In August 1993, Timmy died just before his 8th birthday after a bicycle accident and a 9-year-old Matt promised to play every game with Timmy in mind for the rest of his career.