Jerry York 'ecstatic' for Kevin Hayes' All-Star nod, feels Flyers will be a team to watch

College coach 'ecstatic' for Hayes, feels Flyers will 'turn this thing around' originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Jerry York, college hockey's all-time winningest coach, was recently in Dorchester heading to Greenhills Bakery — a popular place for Irish soda bread — when he bumped into Kevin Hayes' father "Big Kevin."

The two stopped and chatted on the sidewalk. Kevin Sr. couldn't contain his excitement about his son.

"He said, 'I'm going to the All-Star Game!' It was before it was announced," York said. "I hadn't known yet."

Forget the newspaper at the bakery. York got his news: Kevin Hayes was headed to his first-ever NHL All-Star Game.

The legendary former Boston College coach holds a close connection with the Hayes family. He recruited Hayes and his older brother Jimmy Hayes to B.C., where the two Dorchester natives played close to home and grew into NHL players.

"When you go to that school, Jerry York wants to win games, but he cares more about graduating and leaving that way as a professional person, instead of a professional athlete," Hayes said at the start of his first training camp with the Flyers in September 2019. "He taught me a lot — whether it was my family teaching me things or Coach York, it's stuff that has stuck with me to this day."

With Hayes and Johnny Gaudreau, York's Eagles boasted college hockey’s most prolific duo in 2013-14. The 2023 All-Star Game marked Gaudreau's seventh of his career. York always felt Hayes would become an All-Star, as well, and he was right.

"I'm ecstatic about Kevin being an All-Star," he said Friday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "My fondest hope here is that if I turn on the TV, Johnny Gaudreau and Kevin will be on the same line, which would be just like they were at B.C. It would be fun to watch."

York got his wish Saturday as Hayes skated on a line with the Blue Jackets' Gaudreau and the Rangers' Artemi Panarin at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise, Florida. Hayes finished with two assists, while Gaudreau netted a hat trick in the Metropolitan Division's 10-6 semifinal loss to the Atlantic Division.

"I take great pride in just watching how Kevin has progressed as a pro," York said. "His game in all three zones is much better now. He's always been a terrific offensive player, but I think he's doing things defensively, through the neutral zone.

"He's always been an outstanding teammate. Now, I think it's kind of coming together for him. It's great to sit back and watch."

Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Images

Hayes now plays in memory of his brother Jimmy, who died tragically on Aug. 23, 2021. Ever since Jimmy Hayes retired from professional hockey in 2019, he touted his younger brother as an All-Star player. Hayes delivered on his brother's belief.

He made All-Star memories with his family this weekend, including his 3-year-old nephew Beau, the oldest of Jimmy Hayes' two sons.

"I think it's special," York said. "He has taken great pride in helping raise the young boys."

The Flyers, at 21-21-9, will return to game action Monday night following a season-long eight-day break. In the first season of this major transitional year under John Tortorella, they showed progress between the holiday break and this one, going 10-4-2.

York knows Chuck Fletcher well. He caught up with the Flyers' general manager during the club's Jan. 16 game in Boston, where the Flyers were flattened, 6-0, by the juggernaut Bruins.

Despite watching the lopsided result, York sees promise for Hayes and the Flyers.

"Kevin, he's really in a good place. Loves Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers' organization," York said. "I think they're going to turn this thing around and have a great stretch drive here. I think there are a lot of good things going on there. Their record might not tell you that, but I like what's happening.

"I shared some thoughts with Chuck about the future of the Flyers. Everything looks really good. I think it's going to be a franchise to closely watch over the next couple of years."

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