Feature Story on Yale Captain By Steven Lewis
He was a junior who scored the game-winning goals at both NCAA Regional games that sent his team to a national championship in his hometown. Shortly after all that, he was elected captain of the following team. How does Jesse Root live up to the expectations in 2013-14?
To start, he has nine goals and a team-high 17 assists and 26 points while serving as the top Dog for a team defending its first national title.
Root, a political science major, is best known for his heroic efforts in both the regional semifinal and championship games that sent his Bulldogs to the Frozen Four last season. His game-winner in overtime against Minnesota and his clutch third period score against North Dakota are the reasons the Bulldogs had the chance to defeat Quinnipiac in the NCAA finale.
"Last year was an experience I'll never forget," said Root. "It's important to recognize how much work the entire program put in – from the players, the coaches and medical staffs, the Yale Hockey Association, and the athletic department – to make it a reality."
Though the Pittsburgh native has a resume filled with big-time games on college hockey's biggest stages, serving as the only captain for a defending national champion is a daunting task, but one that Root has embraced.
"I've been really lucky to have great leaders come before me in the program. There has been an extraordinary tradition of leadership in our locker room and I've just tried to learn as much as I could from each player throughout my four years," said Root.
His first two seasons as a Bulldog did not result in Frozen Four appearances (Yale fell one game shy his freshman year), yet Root carried his weight and then some, second among newcomers his freshman year with two goals and eight points in 25 games. His performance improved as a sophomore, ranking fifth on the team with 24 points, recording nine multiple-point games and a team-leading two short-handed goals.
"Jesse has been a very valuable player for us since his freshman year, and he has been able to increase his value each season," said Keith Allain '80, Yale's Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach. "He is the ultimate team player contributing in all facets of the game while providing great leadership on and off the ice. His character is the backbone of our team."
Root's career is one many youth hockey players would sign up for in a heartbeat, and he plans to share his keys to success with younger players.
"The biggest thing we preach as seniors is just how difficult it is to win college hockey games. When people have prior successes, they tend to trivialize the effort necessary for their success," said Root. "It is crucial that everyone knows what is required to win constantly and that it demands a disciplined work ethic."
Root was exposed to his sport of choice at a young age due to his father's love of hockey. However, getting the future Yale captain out on the ice for the first time took some bribing. Root thinks of it more as motivation.
"My dad put me on skates at about three years-old. The first time I skated, we went to an outdoor rink in Pittsburgh, and he promised to buy me nachos if I could make it a full lap around the ice without falling," said Root, who handed out five assists (one shy of Yale record) in a 6-0 win over Brown on Jan. 25.
Root, who had two goals and two assists, including a shorthanded goal and assist, against Princeton on Feb. 15, credits his mother and brother for keeping his determination and focus at a high level during his playing days.
"My mom and brother have played huge roles as well. They may not show it externally, but they are two of the most competitive people you will meet and their love of competition has inspired me throughout my hockey career," said the senior forward.
Root attended The Taft School in Watertown, Conn., before coming to New Haven. He played three sports, adding football and lacrosse to the mix, though hockey was always his favorite. He led his team with 36 points over a 27-game span while playing center on the ice for the Big Red.
"Taft was one of the most important stepping stones for me. It prepared me for the life of a student-athlete. Playing three sports and combining that with a top-tier education really facilitated my transition to academic and athletic life at Yale," said Root.
Jesse's immediate impact as a freshman is proof that Taft prepared him for a busy daily schedule and playing for a team that has high expectations to succeed.
Given his unrelenting work ethic, it is an easy conclusion to draw when thinking about where Root's future will lead him.
"I plan on continuing my hockey career and I'm looking forward to wherever it may take me," said the team captain who enjoys golfing with his dad or friends during free time in the summer.
Every good team captain has a vision: one for his teammates, one for the program, and another for himself.
After he has taken full advantage of his hockey career, Root may pursue a career in finance as he thinks further down the road in his life. He interned with Morgan Stanley last summer and with Hedgeye Risk Management in the summer of 2012.
With one final postseason push only a few weeks away, Root will have an opportunity to repeat as a national champion before going off to bigger and better endeavors. Before he takes his diploma, however, he will be enjoying the game he loves, but most importantly, the people in his life who have made this journey possible.
"My classmates have been my best friends for the past four years. I feel so lucky to have competed with them on the ice and to have spent such quality time with them off it. They have always been my biggest advocates and they will continue to be my closest friends for life."
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