UMass defenseman Cale Makar accepts Hobey Baker Award as nation’s top player

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar, left, stands with Tom Hauser after being named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top player, Friday at the Harborcenter in Buffalo, N.Y. Hauser is the chairman of the Hobey Baker Committee. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass defenseman Cale Makar delivers his acceptance speech after winning the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top player, Friday at the Harborcenter in Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • UMass hockey coach Greg Carvel applauds from the front row of the Harborcenter as UMass defenseman Cale Makar accepts the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top player, Friday in Buffalo, N.Y. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Gary Makar, left, and Laura MacGregor, the parents of UMass defensemen Cale Makar, sit in the front row of the Harborcenter, Friday, in Buffalo, N.Y. Cale Maker was named the winner of the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the nation’s top player. FOR THE GAZETTE/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

Staff Writer
Published: 4/12/2019 8:07:38 PM

BUFFALO, N.Y. — For one of the few times all season, Cale Makar looked nervous.

He sat on stage at the Hobey Baker Award presentation between the award’s other two finalists: Harvard’s Adam Fox and Jimmy Schuldt of St. Cloud State. The stage was built over Canisus’ rink in the Harborcenter, next to the KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo. UMass fans sat in the bleachers before event organizers allowed them into floor seats.

His hands clasped in a navy suit and blue tie, Makar fixed his eyes on Hobey Baker Committee Chairman Tom Hauser as he opened the envelope containing the winner.

Immediately after Hauser announced, “The 2019 Hobey Baker Award winner is Cale Makar from the University of Massachusetts,” Makar shook hands with Fox and Schuldt, then Hauser guided him toward the physical trophy. He’s the first Minuteman to win the award and was named a first-team All-American earlier in the ceremony.

Hauser and Makar smiled for photos, forced smiles for Makar, before he began his acceptance speech.

“My heart’s pounding right now, so excuse my stutters,” he said.

Makar thanked the committee, congratulated his fellow finalists and deflected praise to his teammates.

“I truly consider this a team award,” Makar said. “I thank you all for making me a better person and player.”

He also credited UMass’ coaching and support staffs before thanking the UMass fans and the committee once more.

“It truly takes a village and you (coaches) have built ours out of brick,” Makar said.

He spoke quickly, at times running words into each other. It was a stark contrast to his unflappable demeanor on the ice and direct approach at the interview podium.

“It’s more just the individual spotlight for me,” Makar said. “Before games, I’m pretty calm and collected and that’s just the type of way that I play. It’s just an individual thing (when I get nervous).”

He said he felt similarly nervous before accepting the Hockey East Player of the Year Award, but Makar learned from that experience.

“I came a little bit more prepared this time around just in case for every scenario,” Makar said.

It’s easy to forget he’s only 20 years old and a sophomore.

“He carries himself extremely well. He hides it, but he’s a very mature kid,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said. “He’ll go on to the next level and handle it fine because of how mature he is.”

Makar paused often during the speech to allow the assembled UMass fans to cheer him and the team. His smiles in those moments were more genuine, and he used the breaks to collect himself before moving to his next points.

He hasn’t had much time to catch his breath since the Minutemen arrived for the Frozen Four. They practiced and held a media session Wednesday, then played a late-night overtime thriller Thursday, defeating Denver after midnight to reach the program’s first national final. Fewer than 12 hours later, UMass returned to the KeyBank Center for a pre-national title practice and another media session, then Makar and Carvel attended the awards ceremony.

“Honestly, it’s a little bit of whirlwind. There’s a lot going on and obviously it was a long game last night and didn’t get much sleep,” Makar said. “But it will be an exciting championship game and I’m looking forward to it.”

Playing for a national title will be easier on his nerves than an acceptance speech.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.con. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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