At 6’5”, the well-dressed man at the podium leaned towards the microphone set for a smaller stature. Standing before the Boston University Men’s Ice Hockey organization, Doyle Somerby, 22, received the Bennet McInnis Award for Spirit for his dedication and passion. After watching the team growing up and a four year tenure, Somerby bid a final farewell.
Somerby, a senior defenseman, served as captain during his final year as a BU Terrier. Though drafted as a high school junior in 2012 by the New York Islanders, Somerby placed the NHL on hold. Committed to earning his bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism, Somerby elected to pursue an academic track while fulfilling his childhood dream to play for the Terriers.
“Why leave college early?” said hockey writer Chris Peters, 32. With only 5.2% of NCAA men’s ice hockey players making it to the NHL, Peters emphasized the opportunity to earn a degree while also improving hockey skills. On Aug. 15, Somerby will leave his contract with the Islanders and become an unrestricted free agent. Then, other teams can bid for his rights.
“Some teams might give him a bigger idea of where they see him fitting into their plans,” Peters said. “That’s really nice to have those options in front of you.”
Born in Marblehead, MA, Somerby met hockey in his early youth, often watching games from the bench as his father coached. Twenty minutes away, Somerby watched his Terrier predecessors take to the ice. There, he fell in love with the team he would passionately lead years later.
“To have somebody there that’s been in their shoes,” said Dr. Grayson Kimball, “that has gone through four years of that program, it can really help younger players.” Dr. Kimball, 44, studies sports psychology and teaches at Northeastern University. With a young team consisting of mainly freshmen and sophomores, Somerby’s leadership contributed to the success on and off the ice.
Somerby’s captain year contained accomplishments including a Hockey East regular season co-championship, a spot in semi-finals in the NCAA playoffs, and a No.2 Hockey East ranking by USCHO polls. “What I have seen is when players can set that foundation, all the younger players tend to follow along,” Kimball said.
“You’re going to have to keep trusting yourself, that you’re doing the right thing and they follow,” Somerby said.
Somerby’s leadership skills took root years before his BU years. “He was always community first and finishing his commitments wherever he was,” said Mike Van Dolah, 42, Somerby’s baseball coach at KUA. Somerby, a three sport athlete, even joined the school play to get involved with classmates outside of the locker room.
“[Somerby] was a connector here at school for so many groups of people,” Van Dolah said, recalling Somerby’s impact. During Somerby’s final year at KUA, he gave a speech to the faculty trying to bridge the social gap between athletics and the arts. As Somerby moved on to college, his coaches continued to notice his impact.
“We’ll continue to have players in there that are role models, but he was definitely one of the best,” said BU Men’s Ice Hockey Assistant Coach and former NHL veteran Scott Young, 49. Young emphasized Somerby’s leadership style focused on leading by example, whether it be on or off the ice. “He pays attention to all the details in life,” Young said.
Four hours of practice and six hours of study hall were required during the season. In addition to the mandated hours, the frequency of games and travel brought a heavy schedule. Somerby appeared in all 39 games his senior season while completing a full College of Communications course load. “It’s definitely hard sometimes,” Somerby said. “But you figure it out.”
According to Young, Somerby’s discipline will serve him well as he pursues a professional career. “There’s something that we’ve seen in Doyle that’s shown that he can play in the NHL,” Young said. While three of Somerby’s teammates left BU early to join professional NHL teams, Young shared that Somerby needs more consistency in “playing with an edge.”
While the season has concluded, Somerby continues to maintain the same levels of dedication and discipline during his waiting period. Waking up every morning to visit the gym and cooking healthy meals populate his time. Somerby emphasized persistence as an important lesson from his four year experience.
To his freshman self, Somerby would instruct his younger predecessor to “just stay patient and stay with the processes.” The Terriers only saw 10 wins during Somerby’s freshman season. After a checking a Boston College player from behind, his was ejected out of his first Beanpot Tournament the same season.
The subsequent years provided Somerby with stark contrasts to his freshman year. The following season brought a Beanpot win against BC and he scored the winning goal in NCAA Semifinals. His junior year, Somerby’s 77 blocks placed him second in Hockey East rankings.
“He’s the person that every BU hockey player should strive to be,” said freshman Jake Oettinger, 18, the NHL-ranked #1 North American goalie for the 2017 draft. “He’s really put his heart and soul into BU hockey.”
During Oettinger’s first week on campus, Somerby invited the entire freshman class to his family home to start bonding. For many of the freshmen, Somerby became a reliable source for support. “I think guys just tend to look to him for advice and for what’s the right thing to do,” Oettinger said.
While the freshmen have just started their journey, Somerby’s days are BU are beginning to wind down. On May 21st, Somerby will officially wear scarlet for the last time. With the days left, Somerby wants to take advantage of the “little things that you take for granted.”
To the BU community that made his dreams a reality, Somerby sends a message of gratitude. “Thank you,” he said. “It was definitely everything I expected, cracked it up to be, and maybe more.”