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Leon J. Hayward ’98

Leon Hayward in TA Ice Hockey Jersey
Leon J. Hayward ’98
Boys' Varsity
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Lacrosse

Leon Hayward ’98, a native of Seattle, Washington, came to Tabor Academy in 1995 as a sophomore and quickly proved to be an exceptional three-sport varsity athlete in football, hockey, and lacrosse. He was the embodiment of the Tabor student-athlete through his commitment to sportsmanship, leadership, and involvement in the entire Tabor community. During his senior year, Leon’s hard work and relentless drive paid off when he was selected as a tri-captain of the varsity football team. In addition, Leon is a trailblazer for black hockey players at Tabor, leading the way as the first African American to play varsity boys’ hockey. 

Leon went on to play Division I hockey as a forward for the Northeastern University Huskies, scoring 30 points (15 goals and 15 assists) in 132 career games. He then spent six years playing professionally, including five in the American Hockey League (AHL), collecting 85 goals and 88 assists, amassing a total 173 points. During this time, Leon led the Trenton Titans to an East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) championship in 2005 and was named Finals MVP as he finished with 11 points over 20 playoff games. 

Following his professional career, Leon worked for nine years in the independent school world in the areas of admissions and coaching, serving as an assistant hockey coach for the Taft School and Avon Old Farms, and head hockey coach for Governor’s Academy. His coaching stint at Governor’s was the first for an African American head hockey coach in New England prep schools. During his tenure at Avon, Leon recruited and coached two National Hockey League (NHL) draft picks and five players that represented Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup and Five Nations Tournament, along with four players at the IIHF World Junior Championship. He also recruited three players that made the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. 

In 2017, Leon joined Colorado College’s men’s hockey program as the Tigers assistant coach, working with defensemen and penalty kills on the ice while also coordinating recruiting operations. Leon helped Colorado College’s Division I recruiting class rankings move from 39th to 13th to fourth nationally, and he helped bring three players aboard who were NHL draft selections. In March 2019, Colorado College became the first program to win a National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) road playoff series. 

Leon is currently one of two black assistant coaches in college hockey and a member of the NHL Coaches Association BIPOC Coaching program dedicated to developing future NHL coaches and general managers. In 2021, he was appointed as the first assistant coach for the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the program’s inaugural year of play in Division I hockey. 

Awards & Achievements
  • 1996 Tabor Sophomore Male Athlete of the Year
  • 1997 Lucien O. Lavoie Trophy, given to Tabor’s most improved player in hockey
  • 1997 Rip Perry Trophy, given annually to the Tabor football player who best displays the finest team spirit, sportsmanship, and outstanding play
  • 1998 Coach’s Award (MVP), Tabor Academy Varsity Boys’ Hockey
  • 2003 Unsung Hero Award, Northeastern University Men’s Hockey
  • 2005 Kelly Cup Champion and Playoff MVP, Trenton Titans, ECHL
  • 2017 New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC) Large School Champion, Coach