Baker, Goalie in Harkness Era, Entering Hall of Fame

The following article appeared in the November 2 issue of The Schenectady Gazette.

By Ken Schott
The Schenectady Gazette

Steve Baker figured something was up when, at the Union men's hockey golf outing in June, he was told that he should not make any plans for Nov. 3, except for coming to Schenectady. That happens to be the day Union is having its Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony. 

In late August, Baker got word that he was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. 

"It's officially 32 years since I actually walked on campus, and 30 years since I went off to follow my path and try to become a National Hockey League athlete," Baker said. "It's just nice to be remembered." 

Baker is one of seven former Union athletes who will be honored at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Viniar Athletic Center. During the second intermission of Saturday night's game against Yale, Baker will be honored during an on-ice ceremony. 

Baker is the second Union hockey player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, which was started in 2002. Two years ago, goalie Wayne McDougall, who played from 1983-86, was enshrined. 

Baker, a native of Braintree, Mass., came to Union in 1975, when coach Ned Harkness was starting the program. In three years with the Dutchmen, Baker posted a 27-5-1 record with a 3.28 goalsagainst average. 

For Baker, it was an exciting time to be at Union. 

"The memories are terrific with the experiences that we had," Baker said. "It was a wonderful group of guys. We had total trust in one another. We all moving toward the same goal, which was to put wins up on the board." 

Baker said Harkness' goal was to move Union from Division III to Division I. But Harkness resigned during the 1977-78 season, and it wasn't until 1991 that the program went to Division I. 

"That was one of the selling points when I was whisked away from my pending St. Lawrence University commitment when Mr. Harkness came in and just totally blew me away with his charisma," Baker said. "It was just amazing that Ned came in and scooped up three of the five guys that he recruited off of our Massachusetts state finals hockey club to come in in a start-up program. When he sold us in, he basically said we were going to be moving in that Division I area." 

Baker works in advertising for Fox Sports Net, specializing in selling the home teams in their home markets. He also does some scouting for the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

Baker has accomplished a lot of firsts for former Union hockey players. He was the first Dutchmen to reach the NHL, playing for the New York Rangers from 1979-83. He is also the first former Union player to get his name on the Stanley Cup, with the Lightning in 2004. Baker also backed up Tony Esposito on Team USA during the 1981 Canada Cup. 

"I'm obviously proud of the fact that I was able to realize a life dream," Baker said. "From a kid who grew up in Boston area, fortunately for me, in those formative years of 9, 10 years old, they had a couple of guys in Boston at the Garden by the name of [Bobby] Orr and [Phil] Esposito that were putting on quite a show. That really accentuated my interest in professional hockey." 

Union coach Nate Leaman is pleased for Baker. 
 
"What's even equally important in the whole situation is that Steve [not only] went on and had a heck of a career in pro hockey and heck of a career at Union, but he also came back to finish his degree at Union," Leaman said. "He graduated in '85 as an economics major. He's been a prominent person in the bus iness world, as well as the hockey world."

RICHARDSON HONORED 

Union will honor the late Scott Richardson during the first intermission of Saturday's game by renaming its team Unsung Hero Award to the Scott Richardson Unsung Hero Award. 

Richardson, who played for the Dutchmen from 1982-86, died over the summer. 

"Although I did not have the opportunity to coach Scott, after his passing, the response from his teammates, his professors and the community was absolutely overwhelming in the type of person he was, and what he represented while playing here at Union College," Leaman said. "Our program is very proud to rename the Unsung Hero Award in his honor." 

As part of the night, there will be a silent auction to raise money for college funds for Richardson's daughters, Sydnie and Hallie. Auction items include autographed jerseys from Dany Heatley, Steve Yzerman and Ilya Kovalchuk.