Tennessee State hires coach in big step to being the first HBCU to add ice hockey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee State has taken its biggest step yet toward becoming the first historically Black college and university to introduce ice hockey by hiring Duanté Abercrombie as the Tigers' head coach.

President Glenda Glover and athletic director Mikki Allen announced the hiring Thursday. They first announced the HBCU's plans in June 2023 during the NHL draft in Nashville hoping to start play this year at the club level and eventually field Division I men’s and women’s teams.

“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,” Abercrombie said in a statement.

He is an inaugural member of the NHL's Coaches’ Association’s BIPOC Coaches Program that supports coaches of color developing skills, leadership strategies, communication, networking and offering career advancement opportunities.

Abercrombie spent the 2022-23 season with Toronto in the NHL, working on the coaching staff for the Maple Leafs, the team's AHL affiliate and its ECHL affiliate. He worked with video coaches creating scouting and player analysis packages and with players on the ice.

He was a guest coach through the NHL's BIPOC initiative with San Jose during the Sharks' training camp in 2023. He was part of Boston's scouting mentorship program in 2021-22 and Arizona in 2021 as a coaching intern.

The native of Washington, D.C. has been a senior instructor working with NCAA and NHL prospects at the Townshend Hockey School run by Graeme Townshend, the first Jamaican-born player in the NHL.

Abercrombie also was an inaugural member of the Washington Capitals' Black Hockey Committee and a co-creator and lead instructor of the Rising Stars Academy for players of color.

“Today is a historic moment for Tennessee State University Athletics, as we welcome our first-ever hockey head coach and marks a significant step in our plans to start the program,” Allen said.

Abercrombie became one of four Black coaches in NCAA men's hockey in 2019 on the staff at Division III Stevenson. He was a sprinter at Hampton in college until an injury ended his track career. After Hampton, he had brief stints in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League and in the Federal Hockey League with the Steele City Warriors, and the Brewster Bulldogs.