By Derek Berry
Drew LeBlanc, senior forward from the St. Cloud State University Huskies, captured college hockey’s most prestigious prize, the Hobey Baker Award, in a ceremony during the 2013 NCAA men’s ice hockey championship at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. This year marks the 33rd year the award.
The Hobey Baker, college hockey’s version of the Heisman Trophy, is given to the national collegiate player who displays outstanding skills in all phases of the game, and shows strength of character on and off the ice, including sportsmanship and academics.
“It’s tough to put into words,” said LeBlanc, who led the team in points, finishing the season with 13 goals, 37 assists. “It’s a tremendous honor, especially for what Hobey Baker did for college athletics and his country and what he represents.”
LeBlanc, from Hermantown, Minn., missed most of last season after severely breaking his leg during a game.
“I knew when it happened that I broke it. I tried to get up, but my leg was lying on the ice,” said LeBlanc. “It wasn’t good, but as it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise. To come back this year, and play alongside those guys (his St. Cloud State teammates) and have a tremendous ride, it was incredible.”
LeBlanc went through months of intensive rehabilitation which included swimming, light weightlifting and light jumping. “When the docs gave me the okay to go ahead, I knew I had my work cut out for me. It took a tremendous amount of work to get back and be ready to go for this season.”
The two-year captain helped guide the Huskies to their first Frozen Four. And he becomes the first player in school history to receive the Hobey. He said he couldn’t have done it without support from his teammates and community.
In fact, LeBlanc’s hometown of Hermantown is not far from Duluth, where last year’s Hobey Baker winner, Jack Connolly, hailed from.
“So many coaches helped me get to where I am today,” LeBlanc said. “A lot of credit goes to them. For it (winning the Hobey) to come true, it’s almost like a dream. I’m honored to represent (Hermantown) and the St. Cloud community.”
The first-team all-star in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) was the first player in the conference to be named Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year and the Player of the Year. Prior to the Hobey Baker ceremony, LeBlanc was selected by the American Hockey Coaches Association as a first-team All-American.
LeBlanc, a four-time All-Academic student, has been teaching during this entire hockey season at St. Cloud State, to complete his requirements for his math education major. In his spare time, LeBlanc assists new students who are moving onto campus, helps out at local hockey clinics and participates in Skate with the Huskies events. He is an undrafted free agent.
The other finalists for this year’s Hobey Baker Award were Eric Hartzell, senior goaltender for Quinnipiac and Johnny Gaudreau, sophomore forward with Boston College and a Calgary Flames draft pick.
HOCKEY HUMANITARIAN AWARD WINNER ANNOUNCED: Each year on the same night as the Hobey Baker Award presentation, the Hockey Humanitarian Award is given to a male or female collegiate hockey player who best represents true community spirit and leadership through various goodwill activities. This year’s winner was Tucker Mullin, senior forward with Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. Mullin, from Andover, Mass., won the award for raising more than $50,000 for those affected by paralysis. Mullin has more than 100 points in his four years with the Hawks.