GANGNEUNG, South Korea – Ted Donato, a 1992 U.S. Olympic hockey player, wasn’t going to miss his son playing in the Olympics, even if he only gets a few days away from coaching the Harvard Crimson.
Soon after Ryan Donato scored the first goal of the U.S.’ 5-1 win over Slovakia in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, Ted was shown on the NBCSN broadcast, sitting between his wife and mother-in-law in a black Harvard hockey vest.
There Ted was again after Ryan scored the U.S.’ final goal in the third period.
Ted coached Harvard to a 5-2 win on senior night on Saturday, then took the first flight out Sunday morning, arriving in South Korea on Monday night.
“I came here with the intentions that he was not going to be able to come here,” Ryan said. “But it just worked out that he was able to slip away and miss a couple practices, and that’s it.”
Ted had just finished his Harvard playing career when he joined the Albertville Olympic team 26 years ago. Ryan is taking a break from his junior season at Harvard to play here.
“Having the opportunity to watch [Ryan] play at the Olympic Games, it’s really the pinnacle for USA Hockey and should be the pinnacle for every hockey player born in the USA,” Ted said in the concourse between the second and third periods.
Father and son spoke by phone soon after Ted landed Monday night.
“I’m coming out here for one or two games, so make sure you play your best,” Ted told Ryan.
Ryan’s two goals Tuesday gave him four for the tournament, matching Ted’s total from Albertville. He wants No. 5 in Wednesday’s quarterfinal.
“Oh yeah, I can brag about that to him, and he’ll probably be a little bit bitter about that,” Ryan said.
Harvard has two more regular-season games on Friday and Saturday, so Ted might not be able to stay if the U.S. advances to the semifinals. But he’s not ruling out sticking around, either.
“He’s probably going to have to leave,” Ryan said. “If he’s a good-luck charm, and we keep on winning, he might have to stay. At the end of the day, he has a job back home that he has to get to, and I understand that.”
Like this year’s team, Ted played at an Olympics without NHL participation.
Ted had seven points in the tournament, which tied the Albertville team lead. The U.S., behind goalie Ray LeBlanc, went 4-0-1 in group play and beat host France in the quarterfinals.
If the Americans had won either of their next two games, they would have earned the first U.S. Olympic hockey medal since the Miracle on Ice.
It was not to be. The Unified Team beat the U.S. 5-2 in the semifinals, and Czechoslovakia crushed them 6-1 in the bronze-medal game.
“There were certainly a lot more college guys back then,” Ted said (Ryan is one of three NCAA players on this year’s team). “I think the similarities [this year], I hope, is that they’ll surprise some people.”
Ted isn’t thinking ahead to his son possibly winning the family’s first Olympic medal.
“But it would be a lifetime experience,” he said.