Hatin' On Nate

By Elliot Olshansky - January 17, 2008

It looks like I picked the right week to write a column about BC's Nathan Gerbe.

We're a week removed from the launch of a Gerbe For Hobey blog, a day removed from Gerbe cracking the top three in our Hobey Watch and taking the lead on Inside College Hockey's Hobey Tracker, and a few hours removed from a great hue and cry from our good friend Chris Dilks over at Western College Hockey (and the UNH Men's Hockey Blog had its say as well).

I honestly can't say where I'm surprised by any of the above.

The issue - in case anyone has forgotten, or didn't notice in the first place - was that after a 3-3 tie with Merrimack on November 9, Gerbe was suspended for a game for a spearing penalty away from the play that was never called, and Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna, in announcing the suspension, made reference to other incidents that made it necessary to warn Gerbe previously about "unacceptable behavior."

By the way, how Let's Go DU never got this on the "Bad Boyz" list completely escapes me, but I imagine now that Gerbe is in the thick of the Hobey race with the Pioneers' Peter Mannino, among others, I imagine we'll be getting the inimitable DG Goddard's take on the matter post haste.

At the time, I thought this put the kibosh on Gerbe's Hobey chances, which weren't looking all that good at that point, anyway, with BC off to a mediocre start (where have we heard that before?). Now, though, the guy has an astounding 25 points in his last eight games, and as you've seen, he's right in the thick of the race, at least among those of us who talk about it in the media (most of whom will have no more say in the matter than the folks doing Vote For Hobey right now).

So here we are, talking about Gerbe in the Hobey race, and obviously, there are some people who are very unhappy about it, largely because they really can't stand Gerbe.

Well, guess what? It really doesn't matter.

First of all, I don't believe that Gerbe is going to win. I know that for the last couple of years, I've differed from conventional wisdom and backed a Hobey candidate who comes on strong in the second half - and gotten very nice "thank yous" from the player and/or his family at the end of the season - but not this year. I think that Michigan's Kevin Porter is the total package, on and off the ice, and that in the absence of any kind of catastrophe, Porter is the guy. And if Porter's play drops off, then Ryan Jones from Miami - another great player who's just as good a leader (if not better) - will be your Hobey winner.

At the same time, I don't see Gerbe's candidacy as an affront to the memory of Hobey Baker or the tradition of the award that bears his name. The kid says he's learned his lesson, and who are we to argue? He's also playing for one of the great men in our sport in Jerry York, and given York's track record with molding young men, I say it's a pretty safe assumption that Gerbe has learned more than one lesson in his time at BC. And isn't learning what college - not just college sports, but college in general - is supposed to be about?

College kids don't always have the best judgment...having been one, I know I certainly didn't, and I don't think athletes are any better than the rest of the student body in this regard. Gerbe showed poor judgment in the behavior that earned him a suspension, but that doesn't change the fact that he's one of the best players in the country. And unlike some of the other top players in the country, he hasn't been in trouble off the ice.

So unless something really strange happens, Nathan Gerbe will be a Hobey Baker finalist, and he may even be in the Hobey Hat Trick. If you have a problem with that, you'd really be better off if you learned to live with it.

Either that, or keep very still and look straight ahead, and maybe you can look right over Gerbe and pretend he isn't there.

Posted by Elliot Olshansky at 05:58 PM on January 17, 2008

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