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Michigan's Porter named Hobey Baker winner

The Canadian Press

4/11/2008 9:07:20 PM

DENVER - Michigan captain Kevin Porter could've bolted after last season to begin his pro career.

The Wolverines were young, and were expected to take their lumps this season. Porter, being the captain that he is, wanted to stick around and guide the young players.

And while it didn't pay off with a national title, Porter did help Michigan to its first Frozen Four appearance in five years.

The senior forward also became the second player from Michigan to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award on Friday night, beating out Boston College's Nathan Gerbe and Miami of Ohio's Ryan Jones of Chatham, Ont.,  for hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.

While appreciated, he'd still rather have his team in the title game. The Wolverines had their season end with a 5-4 overtime loss to Notre Dame on Thursday night. Porter had an assist in the game, but didn't put a shot on net.

''Our main goal here was to come and win a national championship,'' said Porter, who finished with 33 goals and 30 assists. ''We're still disappointed about last night.''

Michigan coach Red Berenson couldn't say enough about Porter's loyalty to the program.

''Kevin came back with supposedly an empty cupboard,'' Berenson said. ''He came back on a mission. I've never seen a player take the whole team in his grasp, put them on his back and make it happen. He's been a tremendous leader.''

Porter has never been one to brag about himself. That's why teammate Chad Kolarik does the bragging for him. Kolarik served as Porter's campaign manager all season.

''I just spoke the truth,'' Kolarik said. ''I wasn't making up anything that wasn't true - he is the best player in the country. He's truly the best.''

As Porter sat at the podium, a congratulatory letter from Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky was read to him. Porter beamed at Gretzky's compliments, especially when the Great One said it was fun watching him play.

''For one of the greatest hockey players to ever play say that about me, words can't describe it,'' said Porter, who was drafted by Phoenix in 2004. ''That's really special.''

Gerbe said his mind was completely focused on winning a national title, not the Hobey Baker. Gerbe and the Eagles will face the Irish on Saturday night in the title contest.

''I don't think it's disappointing at all,'' said Gerbe, the nation's leading scorer with 33 goals and 31 assists. ''I know Kevin and it's well deserved. He's such a great player. Since day one, we've been fixated on one trophy and that's the national championship.''

Will Bruce of Williams College received the Humanitarian Award for his contributions to the community.

''It's a great honour to receive this award, but to me it recognizes more than an individual,'' said Bruce, a senior forward who has helped create 17 community service projects while at Williams. ''This award recognizes the importance of teamwork. I've never had a teammate or another Williams team turn down a request to participate in a community service project.''

Jones showed up at the Hobey Baker awards presentation with his trademark long, flowing locks clipped close.

''I was actually told by some people in the Minnesota Wild organization to go cut my hair, so I cut it,'' Jones said.

Actually, the reason for the haircut ran deeper than pleasing his future bosses. He donated his locks so a young cancer patient could make a wig.

''I'm happy to be able to help a young kid out who's facing those troubles,'' said Jones, who finished his career as the second all-time leading scorer in RedHawk history.

Porter joined Brendan Morrison (1997) as the only Wolverines players to win the Hobey Baker award. He was flattered to be mentioned in the same sentence as Morrison, who's now with the Vancouver Canucks.

''It's amazing to be put in a category with Brendan,'' Porter said. ''It's a great individual award, but I couldn't have done it without my teammates. I wouldn't be up here without them.''