September 22, 2008

Esteemed C.U. Hockey Coach Harkness Dies

Print More

Ned Harkness, the coach who turned the men’s hockey and lacrosse programs into perennial national title contenders, passed away Friday morning. He was 89.
“Ned was a legend, not just at Cornell but in the hockey world,” Men’s Hockey Coach Mike Schafer ’86 stated in a press release. “As a coach, he had a positive impact on a lot of lives. He was a pioneer of the winning hockey tradition here at Cornell. Today is a sad day for Cornell hockey, for college hockey, and for all those that Ned has touched in his life.”
Harkness was at the helm of Cornell’s only two national championships in hockey — 1967 and 1970. The 1967 title also capped off the only undefeated, untied season in collegiate hockey history.
Harkness was influential on multiple levels and at multiple locations. Before coming to Cornell, he coached at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he not only created varsity hockey andlacrosse programs, but for winning national championships with both teams. He was the first coach to capture a collegiate title in two sports. [img_assist|nid=31959|title=Remembering|desc=Ned Harkness (left) with Dick Bertrand, receives the NCAA championship trophy on May 21, 1970 in Lake Placid, N.Y. Bertrand was co-captain of the undefeated team.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Harkness was known not only for his intensity and tough-love style of coaching, but also for his fairness and building an intense camaraderie among his players.
“He was the kind [of coach] that could get the most out of his players,” Pete Tufford, a member of Harkness’ 1967 championship hockey team, stated in a press release. “He wasn’t a tactician for the most part but he knew who to kick in the pants when they needed to get going and who to pat on the back.”
“There is no greater motivator out there,” stated Dick Bertrand, co-captain of Harkness’ 1970 championship hockey team. “No matter how many years after you left Cornell, he would still be there for you. He made such an impression and changed so many lives just by being himself.”
Harkness left RPI in 1963 to take over the hockey program at Cornell. When he arrived on East Hill, Cornell had never even tasted the ECAC tournament. As was his pattern, though, the Red claimed its first of two national championships a mere four years later, going 27-1-1 and downing Boston University in the finals.
While building up the hockey program, however, an unexpected tragedy brought hard times to the men’s lacrosse program. A plane crash in 1965 killed two of the Red’s assistant coaches. Harkness was asked to assist then-head coach Bob Cullen. When Cullen resigned after the season, the lacrosse players requested that Harkness be named head coach. He accepted.
“He loved his players,” Tufford said.
And he loved Cornell, continuing to provide assistance and advice long after he retired.
By the time Harkness resigned in 1970 to become the head coach of the Detroit Red Wings — making him the first coach to jump from college hockey to the pros — he had compiled a 163-27-2 record as head coach of the hockey team and a 35-1 record as head coach of the lacrosse team. Harkness manned the bench for the Red Wings for 38 games before moving into the general manager role.
After leaving Detroit, Harkness took over a new men’s hockey program at Union College.
“[Harkness] gave a lot to the Ithaca community, the sport of hockey and the sport of lacrosse,” stated Richie Moran, who succeeded Harkness as the men’s lacrosse head coach and stayed until 1997.
And he gave a lot to his players. Several coaches and key members of Harkness’ great hockey and lacrosse teams cite Harkness powerful personality almost exclusively as the reason for coming to Cornell.
In the later stages of Harkness’ life, he was inducted into Cornell, RPI, National Lacrosse and U.S. Hockey Halls of Fame over the span of about 20 years.