As arguably the nation’s preeminent college hockey conference, Hockey East has boasted its share of legends throughout its 29-year history. Choosing a single definitive Hockey East all-star team is difficult enough, but what if you had to choose just one player to captain that squad?
Undeniably the most high-profile player on this list, Paul Kariya was a dominant force during his short time in Hockey East. Prior to his 15-year NHL career, Kariya became the first freshman to win the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player — a mark that still stands to this day — while leading Maine to the Hockey East and NCAA championships. By the time he started his career with the Mighty Ducks midway through his sophomore year, he had already left an undeniable mark on college hockey.
Also deserving consideration is Gustav Nyquist, another Black Bears great. Nyquist led his team in points during each of his three seasons in Orono, including a 61-point campaign in 2009-10 that led all of college hockey and made him a finalist for the Hobey Baker.
Former UMass defenseman Justin Braun had a banner season in 2009-10 as well, tallying 23 goals and 31 points from the blue line as captain of the Minutemen. Braun, who now patrols the defensive zone for the San Jose Sharks, topped the 20-point mark in three of his four seasons in Amherst and was named a first-team USCHO All-Star and a second-team All-American as a senior.
Boston College fans remember fondly the days of Brian Gionta wearing the “C” at Conte Forum. The diminutive (5-foot-7) winger led the Eagles to a national championship in 2001 and took home a host of conference and national awards, including three first-team Hockey East nods, three first-team All-America selections and the Walter Brown Award for the nation’s best American-born college player.
Just a few miles down the road, Kevin Shattenkirk made history at Boston University in 2009-10, becoming the first sole junior captain of the Terriers in nearly 50 years. He earned his honors on the ice, being named to the All-NCAA second team while leading BU to a national championship in 2008-09.
Though it’s rare for a goalie to serve as team captain, no discussion of Hockey East greats would be complete without mentioning Jimmy Howard. The current Red Wings netminder was a brick wall between the pipes for the Black Bears from 2002-05, setting team records in shutouts, goals against average and save percentage while leading Maine to the NCAA title game in 2004.