True Blue, and a Dream Come True

April 15, 2006

By Elliot Olshansky



Elliot is's hockey editor and runs his Rink Rat hockey blog on
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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - In looking to build a brighter future for its hockey program, which played its first season in 1895, Yale could be expected to look to its past.


The feeling in New Haven is that the perfect man for the job was there, standing in the shadow of Yale alum Eero Saarinen's Gateway Arch, ready to come home to another Saarinen creation, Ingalls Rink.


After offering longtime head coach Tim Taylor reassignment last month, after 28 seasons behind the bench with the Bulldogs, Yale has chosen Keith Allain, the goalie coach for the St. Louis Blues since 1998, and a member of Taylor's first Yale team, to take the reins of the program.


"It is a tremendous honor and a great responsibility to follow in Tim Taylor's footsteps as head hockey coach at Yale," said Allain, who graduated from Yale in 1980. "His impact on Yale, Yale Hockey, and me personally has been profound. I enthusiastically embrace the challenge of building upon his legacy while taking the Yale hockey program to the next level."


Yale could hardly have found a better choice to build on Taylor's legacy.  In addition to playing as the starting netminder for Taylor's first Yale team, Allain also has worked extensively with USA Hockey since1992, when he served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic Team that placed fourth in Albertville, France.  According to Allain, Taylor's extensive work with USA Hockey, including serving as an assistant coach for the 1984 Olympic team and the head coach of the 1994 team - was a strong influence on Allain as he got involved.


"I think that, initially, I got involved with it because Timmy was involved with it," Allain said. "Also, when I went to college, I graduated in 1980, so I think any American involved with hockey [at that time] would have loved to be involved with the national program."


Allain would like to build on the connection between Yale and USA Hockey, saying during his introductory press conference that he hopes to recruit regularly from the National Team Development program, which has produced two current members of the Yale team: defenseman Matt Cohen and freshman David Inman.


"Tradition is very important in college hockey," Allain said, "and Yale has a rich tradition, and a rich tradition in association with USA Hockey. I'd like to take that one step further and make sure that every year, we get a player or two out of the [Development] Program in Ann Arbor."


As for the players already in New Haven, Allain met with them earlier on Saturday, and felt that the meeting was a success. "I told them I was thrilled that I have the job," Allain said. "None of us were pleased with the way that the job became available, but I talked with Timmy, he's proud of this group, and proud that I'm going to be coaching them in the future, so the best way to honor his memory would be to perform up to the ability he told me they had."


Easing the transition will be a measure of continuity on the coaching staff, as associate head coach C.J. Marottolo will stay on for his 12th season at Ingalls. "C.J.'s very well respected throughout the whole hockey community," Allain said, "in terms of being a recruiter, in terms of being able to identify talent. He's well respected, he's organized, he knows Yale, and he's established here in the Yale athletic community. I think he's going to be a huge asset."


Allain is also hoping to keep former New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter on the coaching staff, as Richter signed on as a volunteer assistant coach last season while he is completing his degree at Yale. "That's a phone call I've got to make tonight," Allain said. "I haven't talked to Mike at all, but I will, and hopefully, he'll be part of the program next year."


While developing strong ties to the program's recent past, Allain readily acknowledges the need for change.


"There's something special about Yale Hockey," Allain said, "but we've got to find a way to translate that into wins.


Allain has plenty of ideas about how that will be accomplished.


"We've all got great respect for Coach Taylor and what he's done here at Yale," Allain said, "but I also think that with change comes new energy, new ideas, and I think that's probably going to rub off on our athletes.


"Timmy and I, although we both want skilled hockey players, I would say that the type of guy I'm looking for on the ice is a little bit different than his. I appreciate a more in-your-face style of play than Tim Taylor, but at the same time, a lot of what I know about hockey I've learned from Tim.  But I've had difference experiences outside of the college experience, and I'm going to bring that to the table as well.


"My hockey philosophy is a bit different from Timmy's, my coaching style is a little bit different from Timmy's, and I'm sure I'm going to inject some enthusiasm into Yale Hockey."


He certainly has injected some enthusiasm into Yale's athletic administration.


"To be able to find a Yale man who was an outstanding player, who went on to a professional career, then coached in three Olympic games, and coached in the NHL for 11, 12, 13 years, and to have that man say, `Yes, I'm interested in coming back to my alma mater to help the program,' you've got to pinch yourself." said Yale athletic director Tom Beckett. "At the end of the day, I think we realized more than our dreams."


It's clear that the Bulldogs have found the coach of their dreams.  Time will tell if the reality proves just as sweet when a new day in Yale hockey history dawns in earnest this fall.



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