NCAA champion hockey and lacrosse coach Ned Harkness died today on his 89th birthday.
Born in Ottawa, Harkness won NCAA hockey championships in 1954 with RPI and in 1967 and 1970 with Cornell University. Harkness also coached the RPI lacrosse team, leading it to the 1952 national championship.
He also coached the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and later was the team’s general manager and was instrumental in bringing the Red Wings' American Hockey League franchise to Glens Falls. He was also the first president and CEO of the New York Olympic Regional Development Authority, which maintained the Lake Placid facilities for annual international competition and training after they hosted the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Harkness was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1994 and the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2001. On Feb. 9, 2007, Harkness became the third inductee into the RPI Hockey Ring of Honor.
“Ned Harkness was a true legend,” RPI athletic director Jim Knowlton said in a statement. “The things he and his teams accomplished are nothing short of amazing. Most importantly, however, he was a leader who used innovative techniques to teach and inspire with passion and intensity.”
“Inside College Hockey” listed Harkness fifth among the 16 best college hockey coaches of all time, noting he was one of two to win NCAA championships at different schools. Harkness coached at RPI from 1949-63, at Cornell from 1963-70, and at RPI rival Union College from 1975-77. Harkness won two NCAA hockey titles at Cornell, in 1967 and 1970. The 1970 team went 29-0, the only unbeaten, untied national championship team in NCAA history.
A memorial service will be held Oct. 11 at 11 a.m. in the First Presbyterian Church in Glens Falls.
"We're all deeply saddened with the news," RPI coach Seth Appert said. "The passion, and the spirit he brought to this community, that he brought to this school and the hockey program and the lacrosse program, are unmatched. The things he was able to accomplish are things that continue to inspire us today, and will continue to inspire generations of RPI athletes to come."
Bob Fox, the goalie for the 1954 championship team, was stunned when he heard about Harkness’ passing.
“It’s sad,” Fox said. “I guess nobody goes on forever. Some people, you just expect to. Ned was certainly one of those people.”
Harnkess restarted the Union program in 1975 after a 26-year absence.
"Obviously, it's heartbreaking news about Ned Harkness," Union coach Nate Leaman said. "The college hockey community mourns the loss of Ned."
Forward Frank Chiarelli, the Engineers’ second-leading scorer in 1953-54 with 35 goals and 27 assists, said Harkness was one of a kind.
“He had such a high profile, and justifiably so,” Chiarelli said. “He was a great, great coach. I think he’ll be missed very much by a lot of people.
“When you examine his record, he was a huge success every place he coached. He started the RPI hockey program, and he was successful with our group [and] the succeeding groups that came in. He either found or developed pretty bloody good hockey players who were very successful in college hockey. He did the same thing at Cornell, and the he did the same thing at Union in his brief stay there.”
Dick Bertrand was the tri-captain of Cornell’s undefeated national championship team. He took over as Big Red coach following Harkness’ departure to the Red Wings.
“To this day, I've not met anyone like him as a man, a father figure, as a model and as a coach,” Bertrand said in a statement issued by Cornell. “I can say specifically after games where we lost or didn't play very well, he'd give us a tongue lashing, but he'd never let us leave that locker room without feeling good about ourselves. That's a God-given talent, and he was able to do it. He never forgot anyone, but we knew he was always there. He impacted our lives to the nth degree, maybe even more than our own parents, or more than any professor, or boss or anything.”