Individual accolades, honors, awards and the spotlight come with the territory when you’ve been among the elite college hockey players and top NHL prospects for multiple years, but those are not what drove Jimmy Vesey, and kept him in a Crimson sweater for four seasons.
Team first. It’s one of three mantras etched on the walls in the Harvard men’s hockey team room at the Bright- Landry Hockey Center. It stands beside ‘grit’ and ‘perseverance’ as the three characteristics that Harvard hockey players have sought to embody. When Vesey’s teammates voted him as a captain for the 2015-16 season, they knew they were getting a player that could embody all three traits and set a proper example for what a Harvard hockey player was supposed to be.
“I think with his work ethic on and off the ice you see how good he really is,” stated linemate Alexander Kerfoot. “A lot of that comes from talent, but he was probably the hardest worker on our team.”
Putting the team first has been at the forefront of Vesey’s Crimson career. A Hobey Hat Trick finalist as a junior, the North Reading, Massachusetts native made the impressive decision to remain at Harvard for his senior year and pursue an NCAA title with his Crimson brethren, putting the professional ranks on hold for just one more season of pride and tradition in Cambridge.
And while that decision was critiqued outside the boards of Bright-Landry, those inside knew the type of person and leader Vesey was. His lead-by-example character, which blossomed as a junior when he put up 58 points, including a nation’s-best 32 goals, would now be the face of the team when he put the ‘C’ on his uniform.
“I think two things that stand out about Jimmy outside of his production, are his work ethic and character, and those are everyday traits, it’s who he is, which allowed him to be a great leader and captain for our team,” stated Ted Donato ’91, The Robert D. Ziff ’88 Head Coach for Harvard Men’s Ice Hockey.
Vesey wasted little time setting the tone for the season, potting a goal and dishing out three assists in a 7-0 thumping of Dartmouth in the opener. The primary focus of defenses night-in and night-out, Vesey continued to lead the team in production, racking up seven multi-point games as Harvard stormed out of the gate with an 8-1-3 record and secured tournament titles at the Shillelagh Tournament at Notre Dame and the Mariucci Classic in Minnesota, all before Jan. 2.
Each season is not without its up and downs, and following consecutive onegoal losses the Crimson faithful looked to Vesey to resuscitate the team when it was behind St. Lawrence, 1-0, in the third period Jan. 15.
“I think the most impressive thing about Jimmy is that he can change a game at any point,” stated his co-captain Kyle Criscuolo.
That quote held no truer sentiment than when Vesey catapulted the Crimson past the Saints with his first-career hat trick. Vesey put together one of the grittiest five minute stretches of the season in the third period of that contest when he lit the lamp three-straight times for the natural hat trick. Harvard held on to capture the win over the Saints, and came away victors in five of its next seven contests.
The year continued to press on as Harvard set its sight on the postseason, but Vesey had one more show-stopping performance on Senior Night in late February. Besting the Colgate netminder twice, while also dishing out a helper, Vesey made sure the near 30-plus friends and family in attendance, as well as the rest of the sell-out crowd, witnessed yet another Harvard victory, a 7-4 triumph, in the last regular season home game.
Harvard reached its first milestone in mid-February, when it secured its first Ivy League title in a decade. Vesey was at the pinnacle of that charge with 17 points against Ancient Eight opponents.
In the postseason, Vesey helped the Crimson reach the ECAC Tournament finals for the second consecutive year, notching three goals and two assists during Harvard’s playoff run, ensuring Harvard an at-large bid to its secondstraight NCAA Tournament.
Harvard’s season may have ended in the first round of that tournament, but the renewed legacy of Harvard hockey was solidified with Vesey leading the charge. He finished the season with 46 points on 24 goals and 22 assists. Vesey has etched his name in the upper echelons of Harvard’s record books as one of only five players to net 80 goals in his career, 16 of which counted as game-winners, but it will be his team-first mentality, his grit and his perseverance to see his Harvard athletic and academic career through that set the tone for the future of Harvard hockey.
From Left to Right: Marty Sertich, Jordan Leopold, Scott Fusco, Lane MacDonald, Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel, Drew LeBlanc, Brian Bonin, Mark Fusco