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Danton Cole
Danton  Cole

Head Coach


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Danton Cole, a coaching veteran with international, professional and collegiate experience, was appointed head coach of the Michigan State hockey program on April 11, 2017. Cole, who was a key member of some of the most successful Spartan hockey teams in program history, came to Michigan State from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program where he mentored some of the nation’s top young players on the U-17 and U-18 teams for seven seasons.

With the fourth-youngest roster in the nation that included just three seniors and 19 underclassmen, Cole facilitated progress in all facets of the Spartan program during his first season behind the bench in 2017-18. With five wins against ranked opponents, including three vs. top-10 teams, the Spartans improved their win total over the previous season against a schedule that ranked fifth-toughest in the country. In posting a winning record at home, including going undefeated against non-conference teams, the Spartans were rewarded with strong home crowds as Munn Ice Arena ranked 10th nationally in average home attendance during the season. In the classroom, 19 Spartans finished the year with a GPA of 3.0 or better.

The young Spartan roster was bolstered by one of the top lines in the country and the program’s highest-scoring trio in 10 seasons as sophomores Taro Hirose and Patrick Khodorenko and rookie Mitchell Lewandowski combined for 108 points. Lewandowski became the first Spartan since 2006 to be named a conference rookie of the year as he was voted Big Ten Freshman of the Year, while Hirose earned All-Big Ten second team accolades.

Prior to returning to Michigan State as the seventh head coach in program history, Cole’s highly-successful run with USA Hockey included guiding the U.S. to two gold medals (2012, 2014) and one bronze medal (2016) at the International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s Under-18 World Championship and three top-three finishes at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (2011, 2013, 2014), the top events in each age group.

His teams also enjoyed success in numerous international tournaments, having captured U17 titles at the Four Nations (2010, 2012) and Vlad Dzurilla (2011) tournaments. While leading the U18s, the U.S. has placed first on three occasions in major competitions: twice at the Four Nations (2011, 2015) and once at Five Nations (2014) tournaments.

Cole’s first taste of international coaching came with the U.S. Under-18 Select Team at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, where he served as assistant coach. He assumed that same role in 2013 for the bronze-medal winning U.S. Men’s National Team at the IIHF Men’s World Championship.

Cole’s coaching career started immediately following his playing days. After retiring from the Grand Rapids Griffins in 1999-2000, he remained with the team for the season as an assistant before spending 2001-02 with Muskegon in the United Hockey League, guiding the team to the playoff championship.

Cole followed that with a nearly three-year stint as head coach of the Griffins which included two Calder Cup Playoff appearances in 2003 and 2004. After coaching the UHL’s Motor City Mechanics through 2006, he amassed a five-year pro coaching record of 222-126-17 (.632).

In 2006-07, Cole landed his first college job as an assistant at Bowling Green. After one year at BGSU, he was hired as head coach at Alabama-Huntsville where he went 23-59-12 in three seasons. He led UAH to the College Hockey America tournament title in his third season with the school in 2009-10, earning the program’s second-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament, before moving on to USA Hockey in 2010.

Cole’s playing career at MSU began in 1985-86 as he helped further the Spartans’ trek to sustained national prominence. In his four years at Michigan State, the Spartans went 131-44-8 (.738), winning a NCAA National Championship (1986), making three NCAA Frozen Four appearances (1986, 1987, 1989), capturing two CCHA regular-season titles (1986, 1989) and two CCHA Tournament championships (1987, 1989).

As a junior at MSU, Cole was second in team scoring with 20 goals and 56 points, and then was the third-highest scorer as a senior with 29 goals and 62 points.

Cole, who was the recipient of the Distinguished Spartan Award in 2013, ended his Michigan State career with 69 goals and 94 assists for 163 points. He shares the MSU career games played record of 180 with former teammate Don McSween.

Cole graduated with a degree in finance and excelled in the classroom at MSU as he was a three-time CCHA All-Academic Team honoree. He is one of nine Spartan hockey players to have received the Big Ten Medal of Honor, garnering the accolade as a senior.

Cole was drafted in the sixth round, 123rd overall, by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft. After making his pro debut with the AHL’s Moncton Hawks in 1989-90, Cole saw his first action in the NHL that season as well, recording two points in two games for the Jets.

Cole went on to play 11 seasons professionally. He played 318 NHL games over six seasons with Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, New Jersey, the New York Islanders and Chicago.

His best season in the NHL came in 1993-94 when he put up 20 goals and 23 assists for 43 points in 81 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

He is one of 11 Spartans to have hoisted the Stanley Cup as he helped the New Jersey Devils to the 1995 Cup.

Cole played four more seasons in the IHL for the Grand Rapids Griffins before retiring with the team in 1999-2000.

He represented the USA as a member of the Men’s National Team on three occasions (1990, 1991, 1994) and earned outstanding player of the 1991 IIHF Men’s World Championship.

A native Michigander, Cole was born in Pontiac and raised in Lansing. He played youth hockey around the state and then in the Ontario Junior Hockey League in 1984-85, recording 95 points in 41 games.

He graduated from Waverly High School, where he was a two-time all-league baseball selection, playing alongside Baseball Hall of Famer John Smoltz.

Cole, 51, and his wife Debbie, a Lansing native, have three daughters - Ashton, Madeleine and Payton.

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