Sporting Life

Hockey coach headed to Olympics

The absence of NHL players “changes the dynamic in a really interesting and exciting way.”

Evan Frondorf ’14 is the coauthor of Drug Wars, recently released by Cambridge University Press.

Mark Ostow

Mark Ostow

Yale men’s ice hockey head coach Keith Allain ’80 will be an assistant on the US olympic team in February. View full image

In February, when the world’s best winter athletes come together for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, keep an eye out for a familiar face: Keith Allain ’80, the head coach of men’s ice hockey at Yale, will serve as an assistant coach for the US men’s national team.

“I’m honored any time they ask,” says Allain, who is entering his 12th season coaching the Bulldogs. He has coached in the Olympics twice before: in Albertville in 1992 and Torino in 2006, just two months before the former Yale goaltender was hired at his alma mater.

This year’s head coach for Team USA, Tony Granato, also comes from college hockey. He’s in his second year as head coach at Wisconsin. The college ties are no accident: for the first time since 1994, professionals from the NHL will not participate in the Olympics. Instead, the roster will likely contain a mixture of players currently with European clubs, the sub-NHL American Hockey League, and in college. (Yale NCAA tournament hero Kenny Agostino ’14 was the AHL MVP last season.) “It changes the dynamic in a really interesting and exciting way,” says Allain, who believes having young, eager players who “understand the European game” will be a benefit in Pyeongchang. “USA Hockey has spent a lot of time developing a list of guys that will be in the mix.”

Allain is part of a tradition of Yale coaches fulfilling Olympic duties. (Tim Taylor famously coached the US national hockey team in 1984 and 1994, even though he was head coach at Yale during those years.) The Olympic assignment does mean, however, that Allain will be absent from the Yale team for part of the season—first for a warm-up tournament in Germany in November and then for multiple weeks in February during the Games themselves. Allain believes he’ll be leaving his team in capable hands. “My assistant coaches will run the team,” he says, referring to a staff that includes former Yale captain Ryan Donald ’10. “It’ll allow the team to get a different voice.”

Back in New Haven, the Bulldogs are looking to rebound after posting a 13–15–5 record last year, the team’s first losing season since 2006–07. Seven freshmen, including an NHL draft pick, will inject new life into the squad. “I’m really excited about our team this year,” Allain says. “There’s a renewed focus on the physical aspect of the game.”

Captain Ryan Hitchcock ’18 echoes the sentiment. “Yale hockey is a perennial tournament contender and we have our eyes set on continuing that tradition this year.” As for Pyeongchang, Hitchcock says his coach’s honor is well deserved. “In his absence, the most important thing for the team will be going about business as usual.”

1 comment

  • Cary Michael Cox
    Cary Michael Cox, 9:50am November 13 2017 | Ico flag Flag as inappropriate

    That is awesome - what an honor!

    Congratulations Coach Allain!

    USA! USA!

    Cary Michael Cox

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