Every sport has its Heisman Trophy: for college basketball there’s the Naismith Award, for college baseball there’s the Dick Howser Trophy, and for college hockey there’s one be-all-end-all award recognizing the country’s best player: The Hobey Baker Award.
The Hobey Baker Award was first given to a NCAA men’s hockey player in 1981, and it was awarded to Neal Broten, a center for University of Minnesota. The award was named after Hobey Baker, a hockey player who played for Princeton in the early 1900s and who was a stellar athlete that captained both the hockey and football teams. After Princeton, Baker ended up serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War I. While he survived his tour, he tragically crashed a plane he was flying for one last victory flight just before he headed home.
In 1981, Charles R. Bard, the CEO of the Decathlon Athletic Club of Blooming, MN, decided to found the Hobey Baker Award. Inspired by the Wooden Award given to the most outstanding college basketball player by the Los Angeles Athletic Club, Bard wanted to recognize outstanding ice hockey players. An organizational committee voted to name the award after Hobey Baker, and the first award was given to Broten at a black-tie banquet.
There have been many winners of the trophy since Neal Broten. Some recent standout winners include Johnny Gaudreau, who played for Boston College and won in 2014. Today, Gaudreau plays for the Calgary Flames. Jack Eichel was given the award in 2015 while he was playing at Boston University. He is currently an alternate captain for the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL. In 2017, Will Butcher was given the award while playing for the University of Denver. Butcher now plays in the NHL for the New Jersey Devils.
Another winner who has made a particular impact on hockey is Blake Geoffrion. Geoffrion won the award in 2010, and he went on to play for the Nashville Predators. He was the first fourth-generation hockey player to enter the NHL (after his father, grandfather and great-grandfather). After a near life-threatening injury, Geoffrion retired and became a pro scout for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the assistant general manager of the AHL Affiliate Lake Erie Monsters.