MEN’S HOCKEY: Looking back at a decade of Yale Hockey
Yale has enjoyed professional success — most commonly international play — in the past 10 years, and will look to grow its professional presence. Three Bulldogs have already been drafted to NHL teams, and several alumni are signed to minor league affiliates.
Courtesy of Yale Athletics
In the past 10 years, Yale men’s ice hockey has built an impressive trophy case, filled with NCAA, ECAC and Ivy League accolades. Its resume over the past decade boasts a 2013 National Championship, two consecutive NCAA regional finals and an ECAC Championship. It also includes a regular season title and four Ivy League championships. Formed in 1893 — it is the oldest existing intercollegiate ice hockey program in the country — the program has ascended into a powerhouse with head coach Keith Allain ’80 at the helm.
The hockey players’ professional journeys highlight the team’s continued success. In the program’s 127-year history, 20 players have suited up in the NHL — seven of those players did so in the last decade of graduates alone. Although the players have a wide range of professional career paths in hockey after leaving the University, they most commonly end up playing for international leagues.
“We place a great emphasis on player development here in our hockey program,” Allain said. “Drafted or not, many of our guys are working to play professional hockey after they graduate, either here in North America or in Europe or Asia. Our young men are passionate about their sport and work extremely hard each and every day to maximize their abilities and our program is designed to foster that.”
Of the 74 graduates in the past decade, 25 elected to forego professional hockey careers. While only two players played in the NHL directly after graduation, many others started in other leagues: 20 in the ECHL, 13 in the AHL, 10 in international leagues and two in the CHL. Two players transferred to other NCAA institutions.
There is no typical professional hockey journey for Yale grads. While some players spent four or more years in various international leagues, others bounced around between minor leagues before skating in the NHL. Only center John Hayden ’17 and winger Kenny Agostino ’14 went to the NHL without first playing in the minor leagues. Both were Hobey Baker candidates, and the latter remains the most decorated defenseman in Yale’s history.
“Playing in the NHL is a privilege,” Hayden told the News in 2017. “It’s a lot different than college — more games and more travel — but it’s a lot of fun.”
Now entering his fifth year in the NHL, Hayden attributed his direct jump to the national league to “patience and consistency with development.”
“Two years at Brunswick, two years in Ann Arbor with NTDP and four years at Yale, plus all of the off-seasons in between, were a necessary prerequisite for professional hockey,” Hayden told the News on Monday. “I had plenty of support and guidance from Keith Allain and his staff. I think the combination of hockey, academics and a diverse social life at Yale helped me mature and become more well-rounded.”
Data from the past decade of professional hockey outcomes for Yale grads shows that the most popular destination for Yalies is some form of international play, following stints in the American minor leagues.
Forward Mark Arcobello ’10, who has been playing professionally for a decade, has had stints in the ECHL, AHL, NHL and now suits up in the Swedish NL. He has also represented the United States in various international contests.
“After going up and down between the AHL and NHL for five years, I decided I wanted a more stable environment to play in,” Arcobello told the News. “My first year in Switzerland was the most fun I’ve had playing pro hockey … I am able to spend a lot of time with my wife, Mollie, and son, Hunter, since we do not travel very far for games. My success hockey-wise was just a bonus.”
The NHL is widely regarded as the pinnacle of hockey competition. Although Yale has seen some success at that level, former Bulldogs generally prefer to don international sweaters. Of the 10 grads currently playing internationally, most are scattered across Europe: Destinations include Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden. Yale currently has multiple NHL prospects, both in the minors and still in college. Current Bulldogs who have been drafted to NHL teams are Boston Bruins forward Curtis Hall ’22, Edmonton Oilers captain and defenseman Phil Kemp ’21 and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Jack St. Ivany ’22.
While the current team will have to wait until the 2021-22 season to get back on the ice for competition, this generation of Yale hockey is committed to working hard and improving, according to Allain. Whether players are pursuing a professional career post-graduation or not, Allain said that each of the Bulldogs is committed, competitive and extremely passionate about the sport.
Last March, the Blue and White’s ECAC run was cut short due to the pandemic after an OT winner in the deciding game over Union.
Correction, Dec. 1: A previous version of this article mistakenly stated that Hayden and O’Gara were the only two Yale grads to play in the NHL immediately after graduation. However, O’Gara played in the AHL prior to playing for the Bruins and Kenny Agostino played for the Calgary Flames immediately after graduating from Yale.
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