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Danton Cole, an 18-year coaching veteran with international, professional and collegiate experience, was appointed head coach of the Michigan State hockey program by MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis 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 the past seven seasons.
Cole is the seventh head coach in program history.
“I’m really honored to have the opportunity to represent Michigan State University and Spartan hockey,” said Cole. “This is a position to which I’ve always aspired. I wasn’t sure the timing would ever work out, but I’m very fortunate. My mom and dad both went to Michigan State – I didn’t grow up around MSU, I grew up at MSU. It has been an enormous part of my life. Once I got into coaching, it didn’t take long for me to realize I wanted to get back on campus and try to accomplish what we did when I was playing for the legendary Ron Mason.
“I want to thank Coach Anastos and the previous staff for all of their efforts as we continue to move the program forward and build upon the great tradition of Spartan hockey. As a program, we want to compete for Big Ten championships and be a part of the NCAA Tournament, because as I experienced as a player, once you get in the tournament, you’re on the doorstep of a national title. We’re going to identify and recruit young men that want to be Spartans and share our vision of excellence on and off the ice. Another priority will be to continue working toward a renovation of Munn Ice Arena, providing our student-athletes and fans a world-class facility and tremendous home-ice advantage.”
Cole guided Team USA 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, earning team MVP and Outstanding Senior honors.
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.
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.
Cole, 50, and his wife Debbie, a Lansing native, have three daughters - Ashton, Madeleine and Payton.