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After 13 years in the National Hockey League (NHL), Ted Donato ’91 is coming home to Bright Hockey Center.
According to several media outlets, Donato, most recently a member of the Boston Bruins before becoming an unrestricted free agent yesterday, will be named Harvard men’s hockey coach in a press conference set for 11 a.m. today at the Murr Center.
Director of Athletics Robert Scalise and Donato’s agent, Peter Fish of Global Hockey Consultants Inc., did not return several calls seeking comment.
According to Bruins general manager and executive vice president Mike O’Connell, Donato notified the team of his desire to pursue the position last week, postponing contract talks until later this summer.
Though speculation had always included Donato among those in the running for the post vacated when Mark Mazzoleni resigned on June 16, the four-time letterwinner went from potential dream candidate to frontrunner during the past week with confirmation of his interest.
While Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon ’92 reaffirmed his commitment to the Catamounts last week, several qualified applicants remained in contention entering this week—the start of a critical recruiting stretch.
But as the week progressed, the field dwindled to just one—Donato.
Union head coach and former Harvard assistant Nate Leaman confirmed his commitment to the Dutchmen in an interview with The Crimson earlier this week, contrary to published reports that he was seeking the vacant Harvard post.
Boston College assistant and former Crimson assistant Ron Rolston—often the subject of rumors regarding available head coaching positions and widely considered Donato’s chief competition entering the week—bowed out on Tuesday, accepting the top job for the United States National Under-18 Team.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join USA Hockey and the National Team Development Program, which I’ve watched grow to achieve such tremendous results over the years,” Rolston said in a press release announcing his hire. “I also look forward to being a part of this dedicated staff and further expanding my coaching experience by helping top young players achieve their dreams and hopefully one day represent the United States in events such as the Olympics and World Cup of Hockey.”
Though Donato has no coaching experience, his profile proved irresistible for the search committee headed by Scalise. Harvard has a long history of hiring from within the hockey program, seeking coaches who are both intimately familiar with the University and share the team’s underlying ethos.
Following close on the heels of Mazzoleni’s departure—whose Midwestern style often set him at odds with players, parents and alums, if not the athletic department—Donato’s selection marks a return to the coaching mold established by former coach and athletic director Bill Cleary ’56, himself a former member of the Crimson.
Donato, who served as captain his senior year, played under Cleary for three years, winning the NCAA title in 1989 and earning the tournament’s Most Valuable Player honors in the process thanks to his two goals in the championship game.
But Donato’s hockey career hit a snag prior to his junior season as a result of alleged off-the-ice impropriety. Messing around outside the Lampoon on April 21, 1989, Donato slammed a door shut, in the process injuring a female student, who later required stitches.
Donato was brought before the Administrative Board and suspended until Dec. 1, then broke his collarbone, an injury that sidelined him for two months.
After graduation, Donato spent eight seasons with the Bruins before splitting time with eight teams from 1998 to 2002.
—Staff writer Timothy J. McGinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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