Yale men’s hockey head coach Keith Allain ’80 has earned a reputation as one of college hockey’s top coaches during his tenure behind the Bulldogs bench. That coaching prowess has been acknowledged again as USA Hockey tapped the former Eli netminder to serve as a member of the United States Olympic Hockey Team that will travel to Pyeonchang, South Koera for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Allain has a long and successful association with USA Hockey. He previously assisted the 1992 and 2006 editions of the US Olympic Hockey Team, although both of those squads finished disappointingly short of a medal. He also assisted the U.S. Team that won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, a success that led to the team’s induction into the US Hockey Hall of Fame last December. Allain also held the same position for Team USA in 2004 at the World Cup. Allain guided the U.S. as head coach at the 2001, 2002 and 2011 IIHF World Junior Championships and assisted with the 2005 and 2006 U.S. National Teams at the World Championships. Allain’s predecessor as Yale head coach, Tim Taylor, was an assistant at the 1984 games and the head coach in 1994, making this the fifth coaching appearance by an Eli at the Olympics.
However, the faces on the ice at this Olympics will be different than in the past. The National Hockey League opted not to send its players to South Korea, depriving the tournament of many of the game’s foremost stars. The NHL has provided the vast majority of players in every tournament since it first released its players for the Olympics in 1998. Allain coached a roster full of NHL stars — including Hall of Famers Chris Chelios and Mike Modano — in 2006, but the team ended up with a disappointing eighth-place finish.
Barring a dramatic change of heart from the NHL, Team USA’s composition will bear a much more significant comparison to the 1992 edition that Allain coached, featuring a number of collegians and younger players. That 1992 squad finished in fourth place after suffering a 6–1 shellacking at the hands of Czechoslovakia in the bronze-medal game. The Unified Team of former Soviet Republics took the gold that year. Russia will again loom as heavy favorites in 2018 as their domestic league will cease play, freeing a strong contingent of their normal national team to participate, including superstar forward Ilya Kovalchuk.
Allain will be missing from behind the Bulldog bench from February 9–25, 2018, as he searches for his first Olympic medal. USA hockey last won a gold medal in 1980 after defeating the Soviet Union in the “Miracle on Ice” and then Finland. The team’s best result since then has been a pair of runner-up finishes to Canada in 2002 and 2010.