Hockey coach Duante’ Abercrombie has been involved in the local DC, Maryland, and Virginia hockey scene since he was just six years old. Abercrombie started as a player for the Fort Dupont Cannons. Over the last 14 years, Abercrombie’s coaching resume has grown long and impressive. He was entering his fourth year as an Assistant Coach at Stevenson University, his fifth year coaching the Washington Little Caps (U16AAA & u18AAA), and his seventh season at Georgetown Preparatory School.
Tuesday, Abercrombie announced that he’s taking the next step in his coaching journey and it’s a big one. Abercrombie was hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs to work as a Coaching Development Associate.
“My whole goal, even when I was playing, was to try to climb the ranks as high as I could to be able to expand my reach as far as the impact to be able to give back because hockey gave me so much, Fort Dupont gave me so much,” Abercrombie told The Color of Hockey’s William Douglas in October of 2019. “My goal is still being NHL-bound to coach now because I’ve gotten so many messages from players and people in general that to see someone that looks like you achieving at the level that I’ve achieved thus far is very inspiring and motivational to a lot of people.”
When Abercrombie was hired by Stevenson University in 2019 he was one of just four black coaches in NCAA hockey. One of the first people he told was Fort Dupont’s Neal Henderson.
“You could tell he was very emotional on the phone, as was I when I heard that he made it into the Hall,” Abercrombie said. “This is an individual who was a second dad to me. Coach Neal, Mondays and Wednesdays 6 pm to 7:20 pm on the ice, he was my dad.”
Congrats to @blkhky on his new role with the @MapleLeafs! Keep chasing your dreams! Thank you for all that you have done for our program! #hardworkingbynature @GoMustangSports @StevensonU
— Stevenson University Men's Hockey (@SUMustanghky) September 13, 2022
The Fort Dupont Cannons are the oldest minority hockey club in North America. The legendary Henderson founded the program in 1978 and to this day still provides local and inner-city youth the opportunity to participate in an organized ice hockey program.
“It shows that the person who has that much interest in the game has thought to progress himself into the life of hockey and put himself into the position to reach for higher goals,” Henderson said.
The DC native’s passion for player development and training started during his playing days but was only enhanced when he met former NHL forward Graeme Townshend. Townshend, the first NHL player born in Jamaica, runs a hockey camp in Maine where Abercrombie is one of the star instructors.
“He’ll be a head coach one day for sure,” Townshend said. “He’s the consummate professional, does everything right, cares about his players, he’s always well-prepared, always studies. I asked him if he’d be interested in working with me, and he came in and quickly became my best instructor within just a couple of weeks.”
Dirk Graham was the first ever black head coach in the NHL. He was given the job by the Chicago Blackhawks for the 1998-99 season. There has not been another since. In July, former Capitals player Mike Grier became the first ever black general manager when he took the San Jose Sharks position.
With the news on Tuesday, the 35-year-old former Gonzaga College High School student and player achieved the goal he acknowledged in 2019 and should only be on his way up. Abercrombie’s first action with the Maple Leafs will come in Traverse City, Michigan for an upcoming prospect tournament. There, he will serve as an assistant coach to the Maple Leafs’ Manny Malhotra who has been given the prospect team reins.
Traverse City bound 📍
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) September 13, 2022
Congratulations from all of us at RMNB, Duante’!
Headline photo via @blkhky/Instagram
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