|Ted Donato (photo: Harvard Athletics) |
There's no doubt that one of the coaches in tonight's Beanpot tournament can truly call returning to the TD Banknorth Garden a homecoming. That's because Ted Donato is the only coach in the tourney to play and coach in the current incarnation of the Garden.
Donato, who assisted on a Mike Vukonich goal in Harvard's 1989 Beanpot Championship while playing for the Crimson, played in both incarnations of the Boston Garden for the Boston Bruins and retired from the Black & Gold after the 2003-04 season.
For him, the tournament is one of the reasons that playing college hockey in Boston is so special.
"It's one of the great differences for us," said Donato at last week's Beanpot Luncheon. "We're the only Ivy League school that has a chance to play in the Beanpot.
"So it's a great opportunity for us and it's something that kids from the area find very important."
Again, Donato knows this first hand.
Born in Boston and a native of Dedham, Donato played at perennial high school powerhouse Catholic Memorial and graduated as the Knights all-time leading scorer. Like other New England kids, he grew up dreaming of playing in the Beanpot and for at least a little while, it looked as if he would be playing for the Boston University Terriers.
BU head coach Jack Parker often recounts the story of Donato's telling him that he would "give him a call" if he were thinking of signing with anyone besides the Scarlett and White.
Parker always laughs when he gives the punchline, "And I am still waiting for that call."
Although his brother Dan would eventually become a Terrier, Ted obviously made the right call when it comes to Harvard. He finished his career 11th on the Crimson scoring chart (50-94-144), won the 1989 NCAA National Championship, and has been a member of four United States national teams -- including the 1992 Olympic squad.
Picked by the Boston Bruins in the fifth round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, he signed with the B's after the '92 games and never looked back.
"It's always great to return to the Garden," said Donato. "This is my hometown and [the Bruins were] my team growing up, and what greater venue could there be for a tournament like the Beanpot.
"It's a nice opportunity for our guys to play in a professional environment with a great crowd, and we just want to end up on the right side of things."
Donato often found himself on the right side of things during his professional career. His NHL service consisted of 796 games, 150 goals and 197 assists for 347 total points. And in two stints with the Bruins, he made the playoffs seven times, played in a Stanley Cup Finals series in 1992 and played in 528 regular season contests, amassing a 119-147-266 line.
As a result, Ted sometimes has to watch his own emotions when he steps back into familiar environs.
"But I think the kids get their eyes opened pretty quickly," said Donato of the emotion inherent in the Beanpot Tournament. "Whether they are from Boston or otherwise, it's important to them.
"[The guys on the other teams] are guys that they work out with during the summertime and a lot of them they grew up playing with and against, so it's a great opportunity for bragging rights and a lot more."