Bill Cleary (ice hockey)

Bill Cleary

Bill and Bob Cleary
Sport(s) ice hockey
Biographical details
Born (1934-08-19) August 19, 1934
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Playing career
1953–1955 Harvard
1956 US Olympic Team
1956–1957 US National Team
1958–1959 US National Team
1960 US Olympic Team
Position(s) Center
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1968–1969 Harvard (freshman)
1969–1971 Harvard (assistant)
1971–1990 Harvard
1990–2001 Harvard (Athletic Director)
Head coaching record
Overall 324-201-24 (.612)
Accomplishments and honors
1973 ECAC Hockey Regular Season Champion
1975 ECAC Hockey Regular Season Champion
1982 ECAC Hockey Ivy Region Champion
1983 ECAC Hockey Ivy Region Champion
1983 ECAC Hockey Tournament Champion
1984 ECAC Hockey Ivy Region Champion
1986 ECAC Hockey Regular Season Champion
1987 ECAC Hockey Regular Season Champion
1987 ECAC Hockey Tournament Champion
1988 ECAC Hockey Regular Season Champion
1989 ECAC Hockey Regular Season Champion
1989 NCAA National Championship
1983 Spencer Penrose Award
1988 ECAC Coach of the Year
1989 United States Olympic Hall of Fame (Team)
1993 Hobey Baker Legends of College Hockey Award
1997 IIHF Hall of Fame
1997 Lester Patrick Award
Olympic medal record
Men’s ice hockey
Representing the  United States
1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo Team
1960 Squaw Valley Team

William John Cleary, Jr. (born August 8, 1934) is a retired American ice hockey player, coach, and athletic administrator. He played on the U.S. National Team that won the 1960 Winter Olympics gold medal, and is a notable Belmont Hill alumnus.



Cleary was an All-American hockey player at Harvard, starring for two years and setting several team records (many of which still stand) along the way, including most goals in a game (6), longest goal-scoring streak (15), most goals in a season (42) and most points in a single season (89).[1] Cleary's scoring prowess was instrumental in Harvard's invitation to the 1955 NCAA Tournament, the first in school history, and Cleary was named to the All-Tournament First Team after Harvard's third-place finish.[2]

Taking a year away from college, he won a silver medal as a member of the U.S. ice hockey team at the 1956 Winter Olympics, after turning down a professional-contract offer from the National Hockey League's Montreal Canadiens. At the 1959 World Ice Hockey Championships, he won the IIHF directorate award for best forward. At the 1960 Winter Olympics, in Squaw Valley, California, he won a gold medal with the U.S. team that upset the heavily favored Soviet team, leading his team in scoring through the tournament with 14 points.[3]


After the 1960 Olympics Cleary retired as a player and became an ice hockey official for several years before returning to Harvard in 1968 to coach the freshman squad.[1] Bill was quickly promoted to assistant coach of the varsity team and then became the head coach in 1971 when Cooney Weiland retired.[4] Cleary's teams got off to a fast start with a top two finishing in each of his first four years. Though he couldn't manage to win a tournament in the time (conference or national) Cleary had established himself enough to carry through a down period in the late 1970s.

Harvard missed the postseason each year from 1977 to 1981, ending with a losing record in four of those seasons.[5] There was a slight recovery in 1981-82 when Harvard won its division and was able to use it to propel itself into the ECAC title game and receive a subsequent invitation to the 1982 NCAA Tournament despite its rather bland record. The next season saw return to prominence for the Crimson as they won the ECAC Tournament and made the team's first National Title game, losing 6–2 to Wisconsin.[6] For the stark turnaround not only did Cleary receive the Spencer Penrose Award but Mark Fusco was awarded the Hobey Baker Award.

After a brief dip in the standings for 1983-84, Harvard was a national contender for the remainder of the 1980s, winning at least 20 games each year from '85 to '89. Cleary won four consecutive ECAC regular season titles from '86 to '89 (one shared) and reached the National Championship for a second time in 1986, losing 6–5 to Michigan State. That season Cleary coached his second Hobey Baker winner, Scott Fusco, who remains the top career scorer in the history of the program. Three years later Harvard was once again in the title tilt, this time coming out on top with a 4–3 overtime win against Minnesota, garnering not only Harvard's first (and only) National Title, but their third Hobey Baker winner in Lane MacDonald (the team's all-time goal scoring leader).[1]

Cleary coached the Crimson for one more season before moving on to become an administrator for Harvard's athletic department and formally retired on June 30, 2001.[1]

Awards and honors

Award Year
AHCA All-American 1954–55
NCAA All-Tournament First Team 1955 [2]

Among many of the honors he has received include being named to the NCAA Ice Hockey 50th Anniversary team, chosen as the US Hockey Player of the Decade (1956–1966), tabbed as one of the 100 Golden Olympians by the USOC as well as being named the 33rd-best Massachusetts athlete in the 20th century by Sports Illustrated and #68 on the Boston Globe's top 100 New England athletes of the 20th century. Additionally Cleary is the only person in the history of Harvard University's athletic department to have his jersey number (4) retired.[1] Cleary's three Hobey Baker winners ties him for having coached the most players ever with Mike Sertich and Doug Woog.

Cleary was the driving force behind the structure of ECAC Hockey and a mentor to several successful college coaches, including 1987 CCHA Coach of the Year Val Belmonte. The Cleary Cup, named in his honor, is awarded to the ECAC's regular-season champion.

College head coaching record[1]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Harvard Crimson (ECAC Hockey) (1971-72–1989-90)
1971-72 Harvard 17-8-1 16-4-1 2nd ECAC Third Place Game (Loss)
1972-73 Harvard 17-4-1 14-3-1 t-1st ECAC Quarterfinals
1973-74 Harvard 17-11-1 15-6-0 2nd NCAA Consolation Game (Loss)
1974-75 Harvard 23-6-0 19-1-0 1st NCAA Consolation Game (Loss)
1975-76 Harvard 13-10-3 10-7-3 7th ECAC Third Place Game (Loss)
1976-77 Harvard 14-12-0 12-10-0 9th
1977-78 Harvard 12-14-0 10-13-0 10th
1978-79 Harvard 7-18-1 5-16-1 14th
1979-80 Harvard 8-15-5 7-11-3 12th
1980-81 Harvard 11-14-1 8-12-1 14th
1981-82 Harvard 13-15-2 11-8-2 8th NCAA Quarterfinals
1982-83 Harvard 23-9-2 15-5-1 t-2nd NCAA Runner-Up
1983-84 Harvard 10-14-3 10-9-1 8th ECAC Quarterfinals
1984-85 Harvard 21-9-2 15-5-1 2nd NCAA Quarterfinals
1985-86 Harvard 25-8-1 18-3-0 1st NCAA Runner-Up
1986-87 Harvard 28-6-0 20-2-0 1st NCAA Consolation Game (Loss)
1987-88 Harvard 21-11-0 18-4-0 t-1st NCAA West Regional Quarterfinals
1988-89 Harvard 31-3-0 21-2-0 1st NCAA National Champion
1989-90 Harvard 13-14-1 12-9-1 6th ECAC Quarterfinals
Harvard: 324–201–24 256-130-16
Total: 324–201–24

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "2008-09 Harvard Crimson Media Guide" (PDF). Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2014-08-05.
  2. 1 2 "NCAA Frozen Four Records" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2013-06-22. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  3. Barone, Pamela (2010-02-10). "Before the Miracle on Ice: 'Team of Destiny'". NBC Sports. Retrieved 2010-02-19.
  4. "Harvard Men's Hockey Team History". Retrieved 2014-08-05.
  5. "2008-09 ECAC Hockey Media Guides". ECAC Hockey. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  6. "NCAA Division 1 Tournament". College Hockey Historical Archive. Retrieved 2014-04-23.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Fern Flaman
Spencer Penrose Award
Succeeded by
Mike Sertich
Preceded by
Tim Taylor
Tim Taylor Award
Shared With
Mike Gilligan
Succeeded by
Joe Marsh
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