Each year, since its beginning in 1981, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award distinguishes one collegiate hockey player, out of the entire country, above the rest. It honors their honed skills, but more importantly, their dedication to upholding the idealistic code of sportsmanship as established by Hobey Baker's exemplary athletic life.
Before discussing the origins of this prestigious award, you need to be aware of just how exemplary Hobey Baker's sportsmanship was. Hobart Amory Hare Baker was a student at Princeton from 1910 through 1914, named as Princeton's best hockey player, football player, and all-around athlete: the man who had done the most for Princeton. He was estimated to have scored over 120 goals and 100 assists in three years, while only being penalized once, for slashing.
Yes, Hobey Baker is a man of legend, but few parts of his life have ever been overly exaggerated. He was famed far more for his sportsmanship than his playing skills; visiting the opposing team's locker room after every game. His example was so great he inspired his fellow Princeton classmate, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who created the character Allenby, of This Side of Paradise.
In 1978, Chuck Bard, then the Minnesota Bloomington Athletic Club's chief executive officer and general manager, was struck by the idea to recognize a collegiate hockey athlete as best in his sport. It was not until 1979, however, when a club member suggested they sponsor more “athletic oriented events” that Bard put his plan into action.
It took one day to set up the initial committee, finding Ralph Grieg, of Pepsi-Cola, to provide an ongoing sponsorship of the award. In 1980, this new idea for an award was welcomed by the world of collegiate hockey.
It came time to name the award: for whom we know, was named the Hobey Baker Memorial Award. Other candidates included hockey legends Moose Goheen, Frank Brimsek, and John Mariucci. It was decided the award would be modeled after Steve Christoff for his reputation as “the unstoppable force”.
On April 1, 1981, Gordie Howe commemorated the first Hobey award, honoring Neal Broten (below, with award) of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The player receiving the award is voted on by every head hockey coach at an accredited Division I NCAA school. Each coach names the top three players in their league, and also the top three in the nation. Ballots are then tabulated and the top ten candidates are named. The Selection Committee, which is composed of NHL scouts, the American Hockey Coaches Association, and print and electronic medias, selects the winner.
The Hobey is currently controlled by the non-profit group known as the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation.
-Dan "The Wisconsin Hockey Fan"
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