Wayne Dean, former deputy director of Yale Athletics and a cherished member of the Bulldogs ice hockey community, unexpectedly died on Nov. 8 at the age of 65.
Dean worked in the Athletic Department for 34 years before retiring this past July. He held numerous notable positions in collegiate hockey. In addition to acting as sport administrator for both men’s and women’s hockey at Yale, Dean served as the chair of the NCAA Men’s Hockey Championship Committee during the 2004-05 season and as the chair of the men’s and women’s Hockey Rules Committee for the past two seasons. Furthermore, during the 2014 men’s Frozen Four championship, which took place at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Dean served on the Tournament Organizing Committee.
These accomplishments, along with many others, established Dean as a prominent figure in the college hockey community. Those whom he worked with admired his remarkable career and dedication to the sport.
“He was a true Yale treasure,” Malcolm G. Chace Head Coach Keith Allain ’80 said. “He was Yale’s gift to the college hockey community.”
Players and coaches who knew Dean said the crucial role he played during his time at Yale was undeniable. From representing Yale at the Eastern College Athletic Conference to working behind the scenes at regional tournaments, Dean put a great deal of effort into facilitating the success of Yale hockey.
Senior Assistant Director of Athletics Communication Steve Conn was, over the last 30 years, often Dean’s Yale road trip roommate. Conn praised Dean, crediting him as a “key component” in the most prolific run in the history of both Yale hockey programs.
“He had a hand in so many aspects of the operations that people around the campus and country associated his name with Yale hockey for the last 20 years,” Conn said.
While his outstanding passion and commitment was commended by many of his former colleagues, Dean’s character left a lasting impression on a number of players as well. Yale hockey alumnus Billy Sweezey ’20, who recently signed a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins AHL affiliate last spring, knew Dean during his four years playing for the Blue and White. Sweezey explained that he was not only grateful for the opportunities to participate in once-in-a-lifetime games that Dean helped secure — such as the 2018 Northern Irish Connections Friendship Four tournament in Belfast — but he also truly appreciated Dean’s desire to understand every individual on the team on a personal level.
Sweezey described Dean as a “large presence” at Ingalls Rink, noting that he often went out of his way to sit down with players and talk to them about school and life.
“The fact that he cared so much about that says a lot about him,” Sweezey said. “All the guys really, really appreciate everything he did. He truly was a part of the Yale hockey family.”
Though Allain described Dean as a quiet man who often preferred to stay in the background, Allain told the News that Dean was always there whenever he or any of the players needed him.
Mallory Souliotis ’18, another former Yale hockey athlete, attributed great value to Dean’s presence. Souliotis played defense for the women’s team from 2014 to 2018 and remembers Dean as “a friendly face around the rink.”
She added that Dean was a genuinely good person who exuded positive energy, was always smiling and was always having a good time.
“It was pretty comforting knowing that he was around,” Souliotis said. “He always had your back.”
In addition to setting up tournaments for the men’s team, Dean had a hand in conducting and coordinating key events for the women’s team. One of Souliotis’ fondest memories was organizing the annual White Out for Mandi game with Dean. The game raised money to support the Mandi Schwartz Foundation, a charity started in honor of Yale center Mandi Schwartz, who passed away in 2011 after battling cancer for more than two years. Souliotis noted that the event was always very emotional and that Dean’s involvement meant a great deal to her and her teammates.
Allain said that Dean has “immensely impacted” him in many ways and believes that one of the most important lessons that he has learned from Dean is the value of simplicity. He emphasized that Dean was the “ultimate team player” who came to work every day, made sure things were conducted in an efficient manner and was never preoccupied by whether or not he received recognition for doing so.
While Dean was never one to worry about being credited for his contributions, his hard work and devotion did not go unrecognized by the multitude of people who remain inspired by his remarkable life.
“Wayne’s loyalty, dedication and attention to detail in all aspects of his life set a great example for me and others who were fortunate enough to work and live around him,” Conn said. “[He] was a wonderful ambassador for Yale Athletics everywhere he went, and his memory will be a blessing to so many of us.”
Dean graduated from Lyndon State College in 1977 and is a member of its Athletics Hall of Fame. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a private family service was held last week, and a celebration of his life has been planned for a later date.
Trisha Nguyen | email@example.com