Duante Coaching Little Caps

Duante Abercrombie has been named coach of Tennessee State University’s men’s club hockey team, the first at a historically Black college.

"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," Abercrombie said. "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."

TSU officials announced plans to begin a men’s hockey program at the 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville last June.

The university said it selected Abercrombie, a 37-year-old Washington, D.C., native, for his coaching background that extends from youth programs to NCAA Division III hockey to the NHL, and for his familiarity with HBCUs. He attended Hampton University in Virginia.

“His understanding of HBCU culture, the collegiate hockey landscape and the NHL will benefit our team tremendously,” said Nick Guerriero, TSU’s director of hockey and assistant athletic director for communications and content.

"Duante Abercrombie's appointment as TSU's head coach of hockey is a testament to our dedication to breaking barriers," said TSU President Glenda Glover. "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 was a guest coach at the San Jose Sharks training camp before the start of the 2023-24 season and served as a coaching development associate with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season.

He was part of the Arizona Coyotes’ inaugural coaching internship program with Nathaniel Brooks at the team’s development camp in September 2021.

Their internship was chronicled in “NHL Bound,” an NHL Original Productions four-part series that aired on NHL Network and Canada’s Sportsnet and was directed by Kwame Damon Mason, who produced the 2015 award-winning documentary “Soul on Ice: Past, Present & Future.”

“Duante is a very intelligent and hard-working person,” said Sharks general manager Mike Grier said in the TSU release. “He is detailed and organized. Duante has a wonderful personality and has a unique ability to connect with all of his players.”

Washington Capitals coach Spencer Carbery saw those traits when he was an assistant with the Maple Leafs and shared a desk with Abercrombie.

“He’s an incredibly hard worker and has a second to none passion for the game of hockey,” Carbery told NHL.com “I’m sure that (TSU) program, because of the passion he has leading it, and the work that he would put in, I have zero question he would be successful in that job.”

Coyotes president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez told NHL.com that Abercrombie “is exactly the type of voice you want in that (TSU) role to talk about the importance of bringing diverse voices in decision-making, to talk about the importance of introducing this great sport to diverse communities.”

Abercrombie began playing at six with Washington’s Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, an affiliate of the NHL’s Hockey Is For Everyone initiative and the oldest minority-oriented youth hockey program in North America. It was founded in 1978 by Neal Henderson, who became the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame’s first Black inductee in 2019.

Abercrombie gravitated to coaching after playing professionally briefly in New Zealand and with Brewster (New York) and Pittsburgh of the Federal Hockey League.

He coached and served as director of player achievement for the Washington Little Capitals from 2018-22. He was an assistant for Stevenson University, an NCAA Division III school near Baltimore, from 2019-22. He also coached for Georgetown Preparatory School in suburban Washington, D.C.

Abercrombie is a member of the Washington Capitals Black Hockey Committee and has been the lead instructor for the Capitals’ Rising Stars Academy, a program designed to help advanced players of color by providing unique on and off-ice training and support.

He is also a member of the NHL Coaches’ Association’s BIPOC Program, an initiative that aims to support coaches of color in several areas, including skills development, leadership strategies, communication tactics and networking.

“Being a good coach is so much more than simply knowing your X’s and O’s, especially at the collegiate level,” NHLCA executive director Lindsay Pennal said. “Duante’s experience, knowledge, and commitment to the sport position him to excel in his new role. We can’t wait to see him step behind the bench when they play that historic first game.”

TSU is among more than 100 colleges and universities in the United States, District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands that are federally designated as HBCUs.

Abercrombie and Family 1A

They were established before 1964 with the primary mission of providing education to Black Americans who were denied admission to predominantly white institutions during the pre-civil rights era.

TSU’s notable graduates include Oprah Winfrey and Olympic track stars Wilma Rudolph and Ralph Boston. Other prominent HBCU alums include Vice President Kamala Harris (Howard University), the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Morehouse College), television host and former NFL player Michael Strahan (Texas Southern University) and NHL senior executive vice president of social impact, growth initiatives & legislative affairs Kim Davis (Spelman College).

TSU is among a growing number of HBCUs that have expanded their athletic offerings at the NCAA and club levels.

Fisk University in Nashville debuted the first NCAA HBCU gymnastics team in 2023 and one of its members, Morgan Price, won a national collegiate championship on Friday. Howard in Washington, D.C, launched a figure skating club in October. St. Augustine University in Raleigh, North Carolina, established a club cycling team in 2020.

-- NHL.com staff writer Tom Gulitti contributed to this report