Elder Donato, Once an Olympian Himself, Reflects on Son's Chance ...
... But Faces Challenges at Harvard Without Him
For all the hockey accolades that Harvard coach Ted Donato has accomplished over his long career, as both a player and coach, for him the best memories have come dawning the Team USA sweater.
Donato played in five major tournaments for the red, white and blue playing in the 1988 World Junior Championship, three world championships ('97, 99, 02) and his crown jewel was playing in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville France.
Fast forward 26 years later from his Olympic experience and Donato will look forward to watching his son, Ryan, compete in the 2018 version. Although, Donato the coach will have some tough times ahead without his star forward in the lineup for the Crimson, the father is ecstatic and looks forward to seeing his son's experience.
"It is really exciting," said Ted. "Just going home every night, turning the TV on, watching all the specials on all the athletes, seeing all the great stories and all the opening day gear it brings back so many great memories of my experience. I am so excited that he will have that kind of experience.
"It is much greater of an experience and much different than (a player) would otherwise ever have. It is a different experience when you're in the Olympic games and have all these great stories around you."
Coach Donato has been pretty tepid in the media about it all, mainly because he just wanted him to get there, but now as Ryan prepares to leave he is starting to open up about it.
"I have thought about it a lot," said Ted. "I have kind of delayed my excitement or enjoyment because I want to see him make it over there in one piece. I want him to get there healthy."
If anything Ted knows he rigors that the tournament will provide his son.
"This is a major event, although it is a little different without a lot of the pro leagues," Donato said. "He will still be playing against a lot of pros and he will be playing against a lot of great players. I know how great the talent is (in Europe) because I played in Finland during one of the lockouts.
"It is grown men hockey and it is tough playing those teams because it always interesting to see how much national pride those guys have. This is as good and as powerful of an event, as there is internationally. It should be fun and a challenge for him."
Friday's game against Dartmouth started a whirlwind week for the junior. He also suited up for the Crimson in the Beanpot against BU on Monday, then went to Harvard practices before leaving for South Korea on Wednesday.
"It is going to be a long week," said Ryan after the Crimson's win against Dartmouth. "It is going to be a big opportunity on the world's biggest sports stage. I can't wait to represent my country and I am really excited for the opportunity."
The departure comes at a weird time for Harvard. A couple of months ago, the Crimson were hovering around 45th in the Pairwise but now they are around 20th. Given how close the teams are bunched from eighth on back, this stretch could prove to be an important one.
Their ECAC position seems comfortable to some degree, in a bye spot with a four point lead, but things can change quickly. Letting a bye slip wouldn't be the end of the world, the Crimson did win the league's Whitelaw Cup as a six seed in 2015. Harvard certainly has the talent to do that again and it would be facetious to write them off as a contender.
"It will be a different challenge for us," said coach Donato. "But we also look at it as an opportunity for us to have some guys step up. In order for us to have success going forward, we are going to need different guys stepping to the forefront. This will ensure that we need everyone playing well to have that success. We will need to stretch out the offense throughout the lineup."
Lewis Zerter-Gossage and freshman Jack Badini are second on the team with seven goals. Nathan Krusko had nine goals as a rookie, but has just one this season. Henry Bowlby has been out injured; if he comes back, he may be a candidate as well.
This Harvard team is a little different than most in recent memory. It has a pair of proven goaltenders in Merrick Madsen and Michael Lackey, while its defenders are some of the most talented in the ECAC. Keeping goals out might be the best offense, while Ryan is at the Olympics.
"We will also have to play better defense," coach Donato said. "We need to find a 60-minute game and give our goalie a chance by not giving up odd-man rushes. One of the issues we have had is not starting the game on time. We will need to do a better job dictating games."