Known as the most prestigious award in college hockey, the Hobey Baker Memorial award annually recognizes the top NCAA DI men’s ice hockey player in the country. Hockey skills and stats aren’t the only criteria, because the Hobey is awarded to the play that most embodies a variety of qualities, including sportsmanship and character. Minnesota State's Dryden McKay won the award in 2022.
Let's take a dive into the history and selection process for the award, along with a history of the winners.
Hobey Baker Award history
You can read all about the history of the Hobey Baker Award on the official site here, which tells the entire story of the creation of the award. Here are some of the key facts in the history of the Hobey Baker Award:
- The creation of the Hobey Baker Award was spearheaded by Charles R. Bard, who was the CEO of the Decathlon Athletic Club of Bloomington, Minnesota, and was officially founded in 1981, years after Hobey's death.
- The award was inspired by college's basketball's Wooden Award (which was in turn modeled after the college football's Heisman Award).
- Four hockey players were considered as namesake's of the award. Bard considered Frankie Brimsek, Moose-Goheen and John Mariucci, but it was Hobart Amory Baker who intrigued Bard the most.
- The first Hobey Baker Award was presented to Minnesota’s Neal Broten on March 20, 1981
- In 1991, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation was established as the non-profit corporation tasked with presenting the award, and still operates the process today.
Who was Hobey Baker?
Hobey Baker wasn't alive to create this award in his own honor, so it's clear that his credentials and personal history had to be exceptional to stand out from all the other greats of hockey history. You can find out everything you need to know about Hobey Baker on the official site here, which has a comprehensive bio on the man whose name would become known to college hockey fans everywhere. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Hobey Baker’s hockey career began at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. The school was allegedly one of the first to introduce ice hockey to the country, just eight years before Hobey’s arrival.
- Hobey continued his career at Princeton University, where he led his team to a 27-7 record and three Intercollegiate League championships. He averaged four goals per game and was penalized only twice in his college career.
- He once played every second of a 73-minute game against Harvard while other players continued to substitute.
- Throughout his college and amateur hockey career, Hobey was knows for visiting the opposing team's locker room after each game to shake hands
- During WWI, Hobey was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army. As a member of the Lafayette Escadrille, he was with the first group of American pilots sent to France. Baker was credited with bringing down three enemy planes and awarded the Croix de Guerre.
- After the end of the war but before returning home from France, Hobey went up for one last joy-ride before his engine quit and the plane crashed. Baker died in the ambulance later, at age 26.
The Hobey Baker trophy is 16 inches high and made of 40 pounds of bronze and etched acrylic. The original trophy was presented at the first Hobey Baker Memorial Award banquet in 1981. Each year, the Foundation creates two trophies — one for the Hobey Baker Award winner and another trophy for the winner’s college. The original Hobey Baker trophy is on display at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The trophy was designed by sculptor Bill Mack, a Minnesota native. To design the trophy, Mack first had to search for a model, and he eventually landed on hockey player Steve Christoff. Christoff was a standout for the University of Minnesota, and later played for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team and in the NHL.
More than 50 poses were analyzed before the final pose of a player stopping quickly was decided upon. Christoff was photographed in that pose from a variety of angles, and those photos were broken down to create a charcoal drawing. From that drawing Mack created a stick figure, covered it in clay and plaster-baked the design in an oven. From this, the finished bronze statue has remained the same and recognized around the nation.
According to the Hobey Baker Memorial Award website, there are four criteria used to consider Hobey Baker Memorial Award nominees:
- Strength of character, on and off the ice
- Contribution to the integrity of the team and outstanding skills in all phases of the game
- Scholastic achievement and sportsmanship
- Compliance with all NCAA rules, including being a full-time student in an accredited college or university and completing 50 percent or more of the season
There are three steps involved in the award’s selection process. First, the head coaches of NCAA DI ice hockey schools nominate the top three players in their respective leagues and the top three players in the nation. College hockey fans can also participate by voting online during this step. Price Waterhouse Coopers accounting firm counts these votes and the top 10 finalists are announced.
Next, voting begins for the “Hobey Hat Trick,” which narrows the award field from ten finalists to three. The winner is then selected from this trio of players. The voting in this step of the process is by the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Selection Committee. The committee is “a geographically balanced group of 29 individuals representing print and electronic sports media, college hockey coaches and officials, and NHL scouts.” There is also a round of fan voting in this step of the process.
The Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner is announced in a nationally televised ceremony.
Hobey Baker Award recipients
To date, there have been 42 Hobey Baker Memorial Award recipients. Thirty forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies have won the award.
Mark and Scott Fusco are the only brothers to both have been named the Hobey Baker award winner, both of Harvard University in 1983 and 1986, respectively. Minnesota Duluth has the strongest showing of any NCAA institution, boasting six award recipients in its history. Harvard follows closely with four Hobey winners, and Boston College and Boston University with three.
See below for a full history of the Hobey Baker Memorial Award:
Colleges with the most Hobey Baker Award winners
|School||number of Award winners|
|Bowling Green, Maine, Denver, Michigan, Michigan St., North Dakota, Colorado College, Wisconsin||2|
Information sourced from HobeyBaker.com.