Bulldog Legend Impacted Many Lives
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – "His passion for the game as a student and a teacher was intoxicating. You couldn't be a hockey player and not take something positive from his study and enthusiasm for the game," said former Yale, Olympic and NHL star Bob Brooke '83 reflecting on his college coach, Tim Taylor, who passed away last weekend at the age of 71 after a long battle with cancer.
He coached the Bulldog men's team from 1976 to 2006, compiled a school hockey record of 337 wins, and then went to work for USA Hockey as the director of player personnel for the junior national team that won a gold medal at last winter's world championships.
A legendary figure in the sport, Taylor made a name for himself and the Yale hockey program by getting involved in every aspect of the game. Whether he was leading a Team USA into battle, coaching an unheralded Yale squad into the NCAA playoffs, moderating a panel at the World Hockey Summit, instructing a youth clinic or just teaching his Bulldog players a new system for breaking out of the defensive zone, people were listening to his words.
Taylor, the head coach of the 1994 U.S. Olympic team at Lillehammer, spent 28 seasons (does not include two years with Olympic teams) behind the Yale bench and coached more games than anyone in the history of ECAC Hockey. More importantly, he sent future Olympians, National Hockey League stars, professional coaches and well-rounded students out on the ice at Ingalls Rink.
"I think that anyone who was lucky enough to have had Tim in their life is truly blessed," said former Yale and NHL forward John Emmons '96. "Other than my parents, Tim was the most influential person in my life. I am a much better person today for having spent those years with Tim Taylor."
There were many memorable campaigns under Taylor in New Haven, but one stood out the most. The 1997-98 Yale team that was predicted to finish 10th in the ECAC took the conference regular-season championship and a berth in the school's first NCAA Tournament since 1952. That squad (23-9-3, 17-4-1) set school records for overall and ECAC victories, while Taylor swept all three coach of the year awards. Yale's 1997-98 season of miracles, which included an Ivy League title and the emergence of three All-Americans, was built with a solid recruiting effort and bolstered by a commitment to team defense, something the Eli hockey mentor stressed more than anything else.
His efforts helped produce ECAC Player of the Year and Best Defenseman Award recipient Ray Giroux and Ken Dryden Award winning goalie Alex Westlund. The Blue, ranked among the nation's top 10 all season, led the ECAC in overall goals per game and team defense while earning its first trip to the conference championships since 1986-87.
"Tim Taylor was the reason I went to Yale and, after my parents, the person who had the strongest influence on me as a young man," said former Yale captain Billy Matthews '90. "Obviously, he was one of the best teachers of hockey. But more than that, he was one of the finest human beings anywhere. That example he set - how to compete with class, how to treat others with dignity, how to win with humility and how to respect the game - was more important than anything he taught us on the ice. He will be missed more than he will ever know."
The Taylor regime produced one ECAC title, six Ivy League champions, 19 ECAC playoff teams, a pair of 20-win seasons and many professional skaters. Taylor, the 1997-98 Spencer Penrose Award winner as the American Hockey Coaches Association Coach of the Year, was a three-time (1986-87, 1991-92, 1997-98) ECAC Coach of the Year and a two-time (1991-92, 1997-98) New England Coach of the Year. He coached all six of Yale's Hobey Baker Award finalists.
Taylor's 1985-86 squad (20-10), which was his best until 1997-98, shattered 16 team and individual records, beat defending national champion RPI twice, upset national finalist Harvard and climbed as high as No. 4 in the national rankings. It took a 3-2 double overtime loss to Cornell in a classic ECAC semifinal to stop the Elis.
"He coached with passion, integrity and class, and he lived his life that way. It was a privilege to have him as a coach, mentor and friend," said Dave Baseggio '89, a former Bulldog defenseman who has played and coaches in pro hockey.
In addition to his role with the '94 Olympic Team, Taylor (who passed Murray Murdoch on the Yale hockey coaching victory list with his 279th on Dec. 4, 2001) had a number of important international assignments, including a role as assistant general manager and assistant coach for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. He served as head coach of the U.S. National Team at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships four straight years in the 90's, in addition to leading Team USA to its best finish in the 1991 Canada Cup. Taylor, an assistant in the Canada Cup, took over Team USA after Bob Johnson became ill and led the Americans to a second-place finish. A two-time assistant for the U.S. National Team (1981 and 1983), Taylor also led the South to a silver medal in the 1987 Olympic Sports Festival.
Keith Allain, a Taylor disciple who played for the legend, came back to coach with him at Yale and then replaced his mentor in 2006.
"Tim was so many things to me. First a coach, then a boss and mentor and later a peer," said Allain, who led the Bulldogs to their first national championship two weeks ago. "But most importantly, he was a friend. He has had a positive impact on so many people's lives, and I am fortunate to be one of them."
Taylor (337-433-55 career record at Yale), the recipient of USA Hockey's 2006 Distinguished Achievement Award, was a 1963 Harvard graduate. He spent seven years as an assistant at his alma mater before becoming Yale's 10th head coach. He captained the 1963 Crimson team that won the Ivy League and the ECAC championships, and tallied 46 goals and 33 assists for 79 career points in 68 games. Taylor, the recipient of the Angier Trophy for most improved Harvard player his junior season, made the U.S. national team in 1965 and 1967.
"I can only hope that my sons will be so lucky to have a coach/mentor in their lives like Tim Taylor," said Emmons. "As I played after Yale, it was a great feeling when people in hockey would always say, 'oh yeah, you played for Tim'".
filed by Steve Conn, Yale Sports Publicity Director