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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Tennessee State University Selects Inaugural Hockey Head Coach


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) –  Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover and Director of Athletics Dr. Mikki Allen are pleased to welcome Duanté Abercrombie as the inaugural head coach of the men’s hockey team.

The historic hire makes Abercrombie the first head coach of a hockey program at a historically Black college or university (HBCU).

“I am incredibly excited to embark on building this program, supported by God, my family, TSU students, alumni, and all those eagerly awaiting this moment,” said Abercrombie. “I firmly believe that one day, TSU will be recognized not only as a powerhouse on the ice but also as a program whose student-athletes leave a profound legacy on the world, enriched by the lessons learned at TSU.”

In June 2023, TSU announced plans to become the first HBCU to offer men’s hockey. The hiring of Abercrombie further solidifies that plan.


“Duanté Abercrombie’s appointment as TSU’s head coach of hockey is a testament to our dedication to breaking barriers,” said TSU President Glenda Glover. “We recognize the profound significance of bringing hockey to an HBCU and providing our students with unparalleled opportunities that will enrich their college experience. This bold move builds upon the TSU legacy that we had envisioned for the institution as a comprehensive university offering a wide range of academic and extracurricular programs, with a continued commitment to excellence.”

Abercrombie is an inaugural member of the National Hockey League Coaches’ Association’s BIPOC Coaches Program, which aims to specifically support Black, Indigenous, and coaches of color in several areas including skills development, leadership strategies, communication tactics, networking, and career advancement opportunities.

Raised in Washington, D.C., Abercrombie was mentored throughout his hockey journey by notable Black hockey figures such as Neal Henderson and Graeme Townshend. Henderson, the first Black and third person of color inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, has led the Fort Dupont Cannons Ice Hockey Club since 1978, garnering numerous distinguished awards. Townshend, the first Jamaican-born player in the NHL, operates the Townshend Hockey School, where Abercrombie serves as a senior instructor, working with NCAA and NHL prospects.

Abercrombie’s dedication to hockey and community involvement has not gone unnoticed. He’s been nominated by the Washington Capitals for the 2024 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award for his work as an inaugural member of the Capitals’ Black Hockey Committee and as a co-creator/ lead instructor with the Rising Stars Academy, a free program providing elite skill development and mentorship for local hockey players of color.

Henderson was nominated for the inaugural award in 2018, which has since been presented annually “to an individual who – through the game of hockey – has positively impacted his or her community, culture, or society.” This year’s award recipient will be announced before the late-June NHL Draft in Las Vegas.

“Today is a historic moment for Tennessee State University Athletics, as we welcome our first-ever hockey head coach and marks a significant step in our plans to start the program,” said Allen. “Extensive experience in player development and coaching is crucial in building a reputable program, along with the ability to motivate and inspire our student-athletes to excel both on and off the ice. Coach Abercrombie possesses these skills and more. We’re excited to embark on this groundbreaking journey together!”

In addition to men’s hockey, Allen’s ever-expanding athletic offerings will increase between 2025-28 to include baseball, women’s soccer, and women’s swimming and diving.


Professionally, Abercrombie spent the 2022-23 season with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs organization as a member of the coaching staff for the Maple Leafs, Toronto Marlies (American Hockey League affiliate), and the Newfoundland Growlers (East Coast Hockey League affiliate).

As part of his responsibilities, Abercrombie worked closely with the video coaches to create and present detailed pre-scout and player analysis packages to individuals and the team. On the ice, he assisted in each player’s development process, helped with the preparation and execution of practice, and led healthy scratches’ game day preparation. During games, he was either coaching from the bench or was the 5-on-5 eye in the sky.

Abercrombie has been involved with several NHL BIPOC initiatives including as a guest coach for the San Jose Sharks 2023 training camp under head coach David Quinn and Mike Grier, the first Black NHL general manager; the Boston Bruins’ 2021-22 scouting mentorship program, and the Arizona Coyotes in 2021 where he was the subject of ‘NHL Bound’, a four-part series on ESPN which chronicled two Black hockey coaches chasing their dream to work in the NHL as part of Arizona Coyotes’ first-ever coaching internship program, dedicated to creating a deeper pool of diverse talent.

Viewers got a behind-the-scenes look at the Coyotes’ management and coaching staff operations and Abercrombie and Nathanial Brooks’ personal dedication, sacrifices, and passion for shattering stereotypes and earning their place behind an NHL bench.

“I knew after our first interaction that Duanté was the right person to lead the charge,” said Nick Guerriero, Director of Hockey and Assistant AD for Communications & Creative Content. “His understanding of HBCU culture, the collegiate hockey landscape, and the NHL will benefit our team tremendously. I’m thrilled to work with Coach Abercrombie as we develop TSU Hockey into a championship-caliber program.”

In 2020, The Athletic selected him for its 40-Under-40 hockey list as an individual shaping the game’s future. At the time of publishing, the list included then-future and now-current front office members and head coaches such as Spencer Carbery, Washington Capitals head coach; Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach; Kyle Dubas, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager; Brett Peterson, Florida Panthers assistant general manager and 2024 U.S. men’s national team general manager, Lindsay Pennal.

In 2019, Abercrombie joined the Stevenson University (NCAA Division-III) coaching staff, where at the time of his hiring, he was just one of four Black coaches in NCAA men’s hockey. In 2021-22, The Mustangs recorded an 18-win season along with a nine-game winning streak to conclude the season, and Ryan Kenny was tabbed, the United Collegiate Hockey Conference Goalie and Middle Atlantic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Abercrombie attended Hampton University where he competed in track and field until an injury ended his sprinting career. Upon leaving Hampton, Abercrombie had brief stints with the West Auckland Admirals in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League (NZIHL), the Steele City Warriors, and the Brewster Bulldogs of the Federal Hockey League.

An alumnus of the well-renowned Gonzaga College High School, Abercrombie led his Eagles to multiple championships as a player and a coach. He also coached at Georgetown Preparatory School, and in his first year, he helped lead his team to its first Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC) Championship.

Abercrombie is married to the former Melanie Moore, a Hampton and Teachers College at Columbia University graduate and high school educator, and they are the proud parents of children Patrick and Ava.

A formal press conference and reception to officially introduce Abercrombie will take place with dates and times to be announced at a later date.


“WHAT THEY ARE SAYING” 

  • Kyle Dubas, Pittsburgh Penguins General Manager
    “I had the chance to work with Duanté last season in Toronto and came to know him as a tremendous communicator with great energy and knowledge of building out a great developmental program. It is very exciting to see Duante’ get this opportunity to build the program at Tennessee State.”
  • Mike Grier, San Jose Sharks General Manager
    “Duanté is a very intelligent and hard-working person. He has a great hockey mind. He is detailed and organized. Duanté has a wonderful personality and has the unique ability to connect with all of his players.”
  • Brett Peterson, Florida Panthers Assistant General Manager & Team USA GM
    “Congratulations to Dante and Tennessee State on this historic hire. Dante is a driven and focused coach who has studied the game at every level in preparation for this opportunity.  I am excited to see college hockey expand its diverse vision under his leadership, and I know the program is in good hands with Dante.”
  • Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach
    “Duanté is a natural leader with an incredible passion for hockey and coaching.  I’m thrilled for him to be getting this well-deserved opportunity to guide TSU’s hockey program.”
  • Lindsay Pennal, executive director of the NHL Coaches’ Association
    “TSU has found the right coach in Duante’ Abercrombie. He has put in the time and the work to earn this role and take the reins of the new men’s hockey program. He’s an intelligent, passionate, and kind person who puts his players first. We can’t wait to see Duanté step behind the bench when TSU plays that historic first game.”
  • Graeme Townshend, President of Townshend Hockey Skating Systems “Duante will prove to be one of the best hires in College Hockey. He brings a wealth of experience that is rooted in a high degree of character, compassion, and integrity. He will prove to be an incredible role model for ALL members of the Tennessee State University community.”



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