The University of Michigan senior Kevin Porter was named the recipient of the 2008 Hobey Baker Award on Friday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Col. Winning the award seemed somewhat bittersweet to Porter following Thursday’s stunning loss to Notre Dame in the Frozen Four semi-final.
“It feels good. It’s a great individual award, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, especially my linemates,” the modest Porter told reporters in the post-ceremony press conference. “They’ve been great all season, even back to our goalies, Billy Sauer, Bryan Hogan and Shawn Hunwick, and our defense, our forwards and my linemates. I wouldn’t be up here without them.”
“He came back for his senior year, No. 1," Michigan head coach Red Berenson said at the post-ceremony press conference. "You come back to graduate, to finish what you’ve started, to improve on what you and your team has already done. He came back on a mission and I’ve never seen a player take a whole team in his grasp, put them on his back and make it happen on a regular basis. He’s been a tremendous leader and he’s grown up. There’s no way this team would be this successful without his leadership.”
The fourth round draft selection of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2004 was considered the favorite to win the award, which is given annually to college hockey’s top player. He is only the second University of Michigan player to have ever won the prestigious award. Current Vancouver Canucks center Brendan Morrison was the last Wolverine to win the Hobey Baker Award in 1997.
One particularly glowing congratulatory letter that Porter received came from his future boss in Phoenix, Wayne Gretzky.
“For one of the greatest hockey players to ever play to say that about me, that’s pretty special,” Porter said of Gretzky’s letter.
The Northville, MI native captained a Michigan Wolverines team that featured 12 freshmen to the CCHA regular season and tournament championships, as well as an appearance in the Frozen Four this season.
Coming into the Frozen Four, he led the nation in points with 62 (33 goals, 29 assists). His 33 goals and plus-34 also led the nation. He finishes the season with 63 points (33 goals, 30 assists), which include 15 power play goals. He was named the CCHA’s Player of the Year and was a unanimous selection to the All-CCHA First Team. He was also a finalist for the CCHA’s Best Defensive Forward of the Year. Most recently, Porter was selected to the All-America West First Team.
Porter was the nation’s most consistent point producer, tallying points in all but six games this season. During the NCAA Tournament East regional semi-final versus Niagara University, Porter set a new tournament record for most goals by an individual player in one game when he posted four in the contest.
While much emphasis has been placed on his tremendous offensive production this season, Porter’s defensive contributions and strong leadership proved to be equally invaluable in both guiding the young Wolverines to the top of the national rankings as well as establishing the foundation necessary to build a winning team.
One attribute that defines the spirit of the Hobey Baker Award is character, and it was an attribute that Porter had no shortage of. Throughout the season, he always emphasized team before self, and he led by example both on and off the ice. Porter was the consummate team player, and whenever he could, he would make it a point to direct praise away from himself and onto his teammates.
Porter leaves the University of Michigan with his name firmly etched in the Wolverines hockey history books. All tolled, he posted 183 career points (85 goals, 98 assists) in 162 games. His 183 points ranks him 17th all time in Michigan Wolverines hockey history, while his 85 goals and 98 assists both rank Porter in the top 20 all time. In addition, his 32 career power-play goals place him 10th all time. Porter’s 63 points ranks him tied with current New Jersey Devils center John Madden for 15th all time in senior scoring, while his 33 goals rank him ninth all-time in the same category.
Porter is expected to graduate from the University of Michigan later this month with a degree in General Studies.