Summa cum loud: Hurricanes’ Seth Jarvis leans into status as an honorary Harvard grad

Carolina Hurricanes forward Seth Jarvis speaks to a reporter while wearing his beloved Harvard alumni T-shirt, a gift from teammate and actual Harvard alum Jack Drury.

When Tripp Tracy was asked to speak at a meeting of the Harvard Club of the Research Triangle last week, he naturally invited the Carolina Hurricanes’ two other Harvard Men to join him.

Jack Drury, owner of a Harvard diploma, class of 2023.

Seth Jarvis, owner of a “Harvard Alumni” T-shirt, class of not quite veritas.

Neither Drury nor Jarvis could attend because of the team’s pre-playoff dinner gathering, but Jarvis was nevertheless welcome despite his self-proclaimed “Grade 6” education, because if there’s one thing that’s true about the Hurricanes’ third-year forward above all else, it’s that if you try to make him the butt of a joke, even a heartfelt, good-natured one, he’ll find a way to turn it back around on you.

When Drury returned from his Cambridge graduation last summer with the crimson T-shirt as a gift for Jarvis, he never expected Jarvis to cut off the sleeves. He never expected Jarvis to make it his undershirt and wear it under his shoulder pads every single day of the season. For every practice. Every game. Every postgame interview.

“I thought, there’s no better way to put it to use than cut it into a tank top and wear it under my gear,” Jarvis said.

Seth Jarvis. Harvard alum. The shirt says so.

“There have been a few people who have seriously asked me if I went to Harvard,” Jarvis said, “and they’ve obviously never had a conversation with me.”

The Hurricanes have always had a strong connection to Harvard, through Tracy and his youth teammate and future front-office executive Jason Karmanos, through players like Craig MacDonald and Craig Adams. They’ve had players from the rest of the hockey-playing Ivy League schools as well, other than Brown: Jeff Hamilton (Yale), Kevin Westgarth (Princeton), Lee Stempniak (Dartmouth), Riley Nash (Cornell).

Now Drury. And, apparently, Jarvis.

“I think it’s been awesome,” Tracy said. “I would have liked to have had him on the roster.”

Even within the hockey world, it’s hard to imagine two teammates as different as the goofy Manitoban and the cosmopolitan Harvard grad becoming so close. Jarvis left home at 14 to play junior hockey in the Western Hockey League and was in the NHL by age 18. Drury, scion of a prominent hockey family, spent two years at Harvard and another year overseas in Sweden; even though Drury is two years older than Jarvis, Jarvis has played more than 100 more NHL games than Drury.

The two are akin to brothers as much as they are friends or teammates, so when Drury gave Jarvis the shirt, it was with the best of intentions. Still, give Jarvis an inch or two, he’ll take all 200 feet, same in the dressing room as on the rink.

“I got it for him hoping he would wear it,” Drury said. “Using it as the undershirt, I love that. I didn’t know he’d do that. Once he started to do it, I thought it was awesome. He’s a character. But you couldn’t have a better guy around the room.”

Every single day, the shirt goes into his laundry bag to be laundered with the rest of the team’s base layers, an old-school throwback amid the sweat-wicking, high-tech gear. By now, seven months into the season, as the Hurricanes head north for Thursday’s Game 3 against the New York Islanders with a 2-0 lead in their first-round series, the T-shirt should probably be in tatters.

It looks just fine. Other than the missing sleeves.

“It’s hung on,” Jarvis said. “It’s high quality. Only the best at Harvard.”

At the end of the regular season, when Jarvis sat in on the Bally Sports broadcast with Tracy and Mike Mansicalco while sitting out Game 82, he told Tracy he would have liked to major in “micro-macro engineering” at Harvard, which sounds like a typical Jarvis malaprop, mishmashing economics and engineering. But it also could very well be somebody’s bespoke “special concentration” in Harvard’s engineering school, studying “theories of engineering principles” or the “interactions between microscopic innovation and large system models.”

Jarvis, with his elite hockey IQ and even quicker wit, may be more evidence that you don’t have to be book smart to be smart. He plays up the dopey-goofball angle because it gets laughs — “There’s still a lot of stupidity going on throughout my day,” Jarvis said — and won the Josef Vasicek Award this season for his quotability, but he’s the son of two educators, and there’s a spark that animates both his personality and his game, burning bright under all the self-deprecating humor.

“He plays a little dumb, but he’s pretty smart actually,” Martin Necas said. “I’m positive. He’s pretty smart. He just makes himself look like it on purpose, sometimes.”

Watching his game grow over the past two seasons, as he spent last year becoming a two-way player and this season reaping the rewards, it’s fair to wonder what would happen if he applied himself in the classroom as he has to his hockey career. Who knows what might be possible.

“It’s never too late,” Drury said. “He plays it up a little bit but he’s smarter than people realize. He’s got a good head on his shoulders.”

And the T-shirt over his shoulders to sort-of prove it.

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