The name Yale typically brings to mind students in argyle sweaters walking to class on paved walkways with a spiral notebook in hand. Alumni of the university have gone on to be U.S. Presidents, Supreme Court Justices and Academy Award winning actors. Samuel Morse and Eli Whitney call it their alma mater. Sinclair Lewis and Tom Wolfe do, as well.
But when John Hayden thinks of Yale, he thinks of their hockey program.
“At the time, Yale was No. 1 in the nation,” says Hale, who committed to Yale in 2011 before joining the U.S. National Development Team Program, “and they’ve continued to do well.”
Five years earlier, in 2006, Yale hired alumnus Keith Allain as their head coach. The former Bulldog goaltender was serving as the St. Louis Blues goaltending coach and was also an assistant coach with the Washington Capitals from 1993-97 before he got the job. Within two years, the team had a 24-8-2 record, won the ECAC Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament East Regional semifinals.
The next year, Yale finished 21-10-3, had the best record in the ECAC, and made it to the NCAA quarterfinals. When Hayden signed In 2010-11, the team went 28-1-1, earning the best record in school history. That year they won the ECAC Tournament again and made it to the East Regional final.
“I just like coach Alain a lot and everything he’s doing there,” he says.
Before leaving for Ann Arbor to join the U.S. National Development Team, Hayden had 21 goals and 30 points in 26 games for Brunswick School in his hometown of Greenwich, CT. Brunswick is an all-male, college-preparatory private school. Actor Peter Fonda, sports columnist Bill Simmons and Utah mayor Peter Carron attended Brunswick. Greenwich is located in close proximity to the Yale campus in Green Haven.
“It’s 45 minutes away from my house so my parents can go to games,” says Hayden. “It was everything I needed.”
As a highly regarded recruit, Hayden will be expected to come in and make an impact next season. He will be joining a Yale team that has climbed to No. 15 in the USCHO.com poll with a 14-10-3 record following a disappointing 10-10-2 season. The 18-year-old feels that the Team USA schedule has prepared him well for college hockey.
“We play a D1 schedule, D3 and international as well as the USHL, so we get a lot of games in,” he says. “Everything is going well so far.”
He believes that he will have success if he sticks to his role as a power forward.
“I need to keep working on getting pucks to the net, being good in the corners, making plays and being good in all three zones,” he says. “Being able to be both physical…and also get points—I like the balance between both of those.”
Projected to be a mid-round pick at the 2013 NHL Draft, Hayden is unlikely to be the highest-drafted player to come out of Brunswick. That honor belongs to Hugh Jessiman, a player the New York Rangers chose 12th overall at the 2003 NHL Draft. He has been considered a disappointment, however, because he has only played two NHL games and was drafted ahead of Dustin Brown, Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards and Corey Perry.
Yale has also produced a first-rounder recently: Vancouver Canucks forward Christopher Higgins, who went 14th overall to the Montreal Canadiens in 2002. The 29-year-old had three seasons early in his career with the Habs where he scored more than 20 goals per season. He has fallen off a bit, however, and is playing with his fourth team in five years since leaving Montreal, leaving the door open for Hayden to become the premier hockey player to come out of New Haven.
Hayden has a chance to make a name for himself among the famous alumni at Brunswick and Yale by making his mark in the NHL.
Wearing a mesh sweater, not an argyle one.
Follow Tom Schreier on Twitter via @tschreier3