Ted Donato.

Ted Donato is the Robert D. Ziff  ’88 Head Coach for Harvard Men’s Ice Hockey.

Photo by Dylan Goodman

Campus & Community

Ted Donato crosses 300-win marker, creeping up on all-time record

Former standout Crimson, NHL player, now in 20th year as head coach, says success in game is all about character

4 min read

Ted Donato ’91 officially hit the record books last month with the Crimson’s 1-0 triumph over Yale, becoming only the third Harvard hockey coach ever to reach the 300-win milestone.

The Robert D. Ziff  ’88 Head Coach for Harvard Men’s Ice Hockey, Donato said the achievement really belongs to a constellation of Crimson players, coaches, training staff, and equipment managers. “To me, it was a real compliment to all the great people who make up Harvard hockey,” he said.

Now in his 20th year, Donato, who holds the additional title of James Herscot ’58 Coach of Excellence, was preceded in the 300 club by Ralph “Cooney” Weiland (1950-1971, 315 wins) and William “Bill” Cleary ’51 (1971-1990, 324 wins), who led the team while Donato was a standout left wing and inspired his approach to the sport.

“Carry yourself in a way that you represent your family, your university,” said Donato, describing his mentor’s edicts. “Don’t do anything that would jeopardize the reputation that so many have worked so hard to build.”

“Having an opportunity to come back to Harvard represented two of the things I enjoy most in my life: my time at Harvard and the game of hockey.”

On the ice, Donato coaches his team to play fast, emphasizing good puck control and taking full advantage of the power play. The team struggled during the first half of the 2023-24 season, owing to injuries as well as the current roster’s relative youth. But the Crimson have rebounded since, and now have a top 10 power play in college hockey.

A lifelong hockey player, Donato grew up in Dedham, Massachusetts, and spent his days skating the rinks of the nearby Boston neighborhood of Hyde Park. “I had two older brothers who played hockey,” he said. “I looked up to them, and it was something that I grew to love right away.”

He was a powerhouse player at Catholic Memorial high school and started his Crimson career in the 1988-89 hockey season. The 1989 MVP of the NCAA Frozen Four was thrilled to land in the NHL in the early ’90s with the Boston Bruins. He went on to play for several other pro teams as well as the U.S. men’s national team during the 1992 Olympics.

“For all the great crowds, the great arenas, and great cities I got to play in, [my] time as a student-athlete at Harvard was some of the most enjoyable,” he said.

Donato made his return to his alma mater as head ice hockey coach during the 2004-05 season. “Having an opportunity to come back to Harvard represented two of the things I enjoy most in my life: my time at Harvard and the game of hockey,” said the former Kirkland House resident.

In addition to eclipsing the 300-win mark, Donato’s coaching achievements are many. He led the team to four Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Hockey championships, the NCAA tournament eight times, and made seven consecutive appearances in the ECAC Championship Tournament starting in 2015.

Donato also takes pride in having coached many successful pro players, including Chicago Blackhawks center Colin Blackwell ’16 and New York Rangers defenseman Adam Fox. He was especially thrilled to coach son Ryan Donato, now a forward with the Blackhawks.

After a March 1 win against Yale, Donato is just 21 wins from eclipsing the overall record for most wins in Harvard men’s ice hockey. But his mind couldn’t be further from personal stats, he said.

Instead, his focus lies entirely with improving the current generation of Crimson players. “They remain great teammates and focused on getting better,” he said. “To me, that’s a real measuring stick for improvement.”