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Canadian-born NCAA champion hockey coach Harkness dies

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ALBANY, N.Y. - Canadian Ned Harkness, who coached NCAA champion hockey and lacrosse teams, has died. He was 89.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute said Harkness, who won NCAA hockey championships in 1954 with RPI and in 1967 and 1970 with Cornell University, died at his home in Rochester on Friday, his birthday. He had recently suffered a stroke.

Born in Ottawa, Harkness also coached the NHL's Detroit Red Wings and later was the team's general manager. Harkness was also the first president and CEO of the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority, which maintained the Lake Placid facilities for international competition and training after they hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics.

"It is difficult enough for a coach to establish himself in one sport; Ned Harkness did it in two: hockey and lacrosse," said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in a statement issued Saturday. "It is difficult enough for a coach to establish himself at one university; Ned Harkness did it at three -- RPI, Cornell and Union. His college teams almost always found a way to accomplish more than people believed they could, and Ned did the same thing himself in 1970 by becoming the first coach to make the jump from the college community to the National Hockey League, with the Detroit Red Wings. Hockey has lost a dear friend. We send deepest condolences to his family and loved ones."

"Inside College Hockey" lists Harkness fifth among the 16 best U.S. college hockey coaches of all time, noting he was one of two to win NCAA championships at different schools. Harkness coached at RPI from 1949 to '63, at Cornell from 1963 to '70, and at RPI rival Union College from 1975 to '77. In his national championship year at Cornell in 1970, his team was undefeated.

While he was at Cornell, Harkness coached a young law student named Ken Dryden, who would go on to become a Hall of Fame goaltender with the Montreal Canadiens.

Harkness left the coaching duties of the Red Wings to Doug Barkley midway through his first NHL season with a 12-22-4 record and replaced Sid Abel as GM. He soon went back to his coaching roots after deciding he belonged with college players.

"I was a very integral part of their lives off the ice, and I missed that part of it," Harkness said in a 1982 Associated Press story about college coaches who tried their hand at the pros and returned to college coaching. "Regardless of the ups and downs, I would never exchange my years in the NHL.

"The experience of the NHL made me a better college coach when I went back there than I ever was before."

He also coached RPI's national champion lacrosse team in 1952.

Harkness was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1994 and the National Lacrosse hall of Fame in 2001.

A memorial service will be held Oct. 11 at 11 a.m. in the First Presbyterian Church in Glens Falls.

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