Legendary Men’s Ice Hockey Coach Don Vaughan Retires

Thor Graham, Contributing Writer

Don Vaughan, longtime Colgate University men’s hockey coach, announced on Tuesday, April 18 that he is leaving the bench and retiring after a storied 30-year tenure. Vaughan is the third longest-tenured Division I hockey coach and leaves Colgate as its winningest coach in Raider history. He boasts six 20-win seasons, four NCAA tournament berths and two ECAC Coach of the Year honors. 

Junior forward Ross Mitton described the special, inspiring atmosphere that Vaughan created on and off the ice.

“At the beginning of the year, the two biggest words that Coach Vaughan emphasized were trust and believe. A key to our success was trusting the guy next to you and trusting the systems that the coaches lay out for us. Also, we needed to believe that we are capable of being a championship team which is a critical reason as to why we had the success we did,” Mitton said. “Many people around the world doubted us but we believed in ourselves. It brought us really close together as a group. It is definitely one of the closest teams I have ever been on in my career. We’re one big family that will last a lifetime.”

In his final season as head coach, Vaughan helmed an unforgettable run to this year’s NCAA tournament, leading Colgate to its first ECAC Men’s Hockey Championship since 1990. Colgate outlasted eventual national champion Quinnipiac — which ranked second in the country — by a double overtime score of 2-1 in the semifinals. The team then held onto an early lead against sixth-seed Harvard in the championship, winning Vaughan a tournament title in what was soon announced to be his final season. The Raiders fell to Michigan in the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament.

“It has been a privilege for me to have served as head coach of the Colgate men’s hockey program for 30 years,” Vaughan told Colgate Athletics. “It is hard to believe that so many years have passed since Colgate Athletic Director Mark Murphy gave a young assistant coach this opportunity in 1992.” 

Vaughan humbly continued, celebrating his colleagues and thanking them for their assistance in his lengthy career.

“In all of these years, I never once looked at Colgate Hockey as my program. I was simply the mantle holder and have had so much help along the way,” Vaughan said. “I am very fortunate to have worked alongside many wonderful and talented administrators, assistant coaches, staff, and colleagues. Thank you to our alumni and Silver Puck Members, as well as Silver Puck President Jerry Quill ‘60. Your support over many years has always amazed me.”

Vaughan coached his way to 27 appearances in the ECAC Hockey Tournament. His players have become 56 All-ECAC Hockey honorees, 36 NHL draftees, 14 NHL alums, 12 Perfect Academic Progress Rate score winners, seven All-Americans, five Hobey Baker Award finalists, two ECAC Players of the Year, one NHL All-Star and a NHL Stanley Cup Winner. During the 2017-18 season, Vaughan achieved his 400th career win at Colgate, becoming only the 24th Division I hockey coach to reach 400 wins. In the preceding year, the program had won its 1,000th game. Certainly, Coach Vaughan has many accolades to be proud of through his 30 year career. Perhaps more important than those accolades, though, are the bonds Vaughan was able to foster with his players.

“I had a great relationship with Coach Vaughn, as did many others on the team,” junior forward Alex Young said. “He was someone that was always able to provide advice and wisdom when it was needed. But it was away from the ice where the players were able to really connect with him, as we would talk about music, sport and hear stories about his fantastic career.”

Vaughn, a collegiate hockey player himself for St. Lawrence University in the 1980s, understood the importance of establishing a welcome and open locker room. Another impressive achievement for Vaughan was the creation of an endowed position in his name. In November 2007, Colgate announced the establishment of the Donald F. Vaughan Endowed Coaching Chair for Men’s Ice Hockey. Vaughan became the only active coach in Division I Men’s Hockey to have an endowment in his name at the time.

Colgate said it will immediately begin a nationwide search for its next head coach, noting that the athletic department will not be limited to inside hires.

The program may be without its longtime leader as it attempts to defend its ECAC crown, but expectations will still be high, with Vaughan setting the standard for success over the past three decades. The players will certainly keep the impact and expectations of Vaughan with them as they look forward to the program’s next chapter.

Congratulations to Coach Vaughan on a successful career and a well-earned retirement.