Harkness inspired loyalty
Loyalty to a team, and loyalty to a coach. You don’t see much of that these days in sports.
But the men who played college hockey for Ned Harkness have it both for him, even to this day. The outpouring of the love and respect for him came out on Friday shortly after Harkness died on 89 th birthday.
Harkness coached at RPI, Cornell and Union. And he left his mark at all three institutions.
He won NCAA titles at RPI and Cornell. But he also won the respect of his players.
“It’s sad,” said Bob Fox, the goalie for RPI’s 1954 national championship team. “I guess nobody goes on forever. Some people, you just expect to. Ned was certainly one of those people.”
“He had such a high profile, and justifiably so,” said RPI forward Frank Chiarelli, the team’s second-leading scorer during the 1953-54 season. “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.”
And this from Dick Bertrand, who was tri-captain of Cornell’s 1970 NCAA championship team, a club that went 29-0.
“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.”
Maybe the ultimate loyalty was displayed by his Union players. Harkness abruptly resigned midway through the 1977-78 season in a dispute with the administration. The players also quit in support of Harkness.
I recall the last two times I saw Harkness, at the reunion of RPI’s 1954 championship team in 2004, and three years later for his induction into the RPI Hockey Ring of Honor. He enjoyed the company of his former players, and the fans showered him with love. And he showed his love for the school that gave him his start.
He was loyal to RPI until the end.