HAMILTON, N.Y. - When Colgate University men's ice hockey head coach Don Vaughan was growing up in a small town in Ontario, Canada, he never imagined he'd end up in an even smaller town in central New York. Now, he can't imagine it any other way.
On Tuesday, in the Raiders' 4-4 tie against RIT, Vaughan reached a major career milestone, with his 1,000th game as a head coach, all of which has come at the helm for Colgate.
"It's kind of hard to believe really," said Vaughan via a video conference call with NEWSChannel 2. "You don't get this many games at one place without the support of so many people over a number of years and I've worked with some great administrations, and I've had some unbelievable athletic directors.
"I've worked with some great assistant coaches and I've had the opportunity to coach some of the finest human beings on the planet, some of the players I've had over the years. That's what I think about at moments like this, I've been very fortunate"
Originally from Almonte, Ontario in Canada, a town of under 5,100 people, Vaughan came to the United States to play college hockey for St. Lawrence.
After playing three seasons for the Saints, he went overseas to begin his coaching career as a player/coach with the Enschede Lions of the Dutch Professional league, before returning to St. Lawrence for the next three seasons, one as a graduate assistant and then two as a full-time assistant coach.
He next went to Cornell for two seasons as an assistant before returning to the Saints for a second assistant coaching stint for two more after that.
In 1992, he was hired for his first head coaching job, and only thus far, at Colgate.
A Canadian at birth, Vaughan has now adopted Hamilton as his own.
"I've been here longer now than I was in the hometown I grew up in Canada, so this really is home," said Vaughan. "We've raised our family here, it's a wonderful community. The Colgate community and Hamilton community mesh well, the town and gown relationship is quite strong. The people that I work with, I consider some of the best friends I've ever had.
"The Hamilton community has supported our program and me personally, and our family. It's just a wonderful place, I've just been so fortunate to have been able to stay in one place as long as I have and be around the people that I have."
Now in his 28th season on the bench for the Raiders, Vaughan has compiled quite the resume during in his tenure.
With 430 career wins to date, Vaughan is the program's all time wins leader.
He's lead Colgate to six 20-win seasons, 25 appearances in the ECAC Hockey Tournament, three berths in the NCAA Tournament and has twice been named the ECAC Coach of the Year (2000, 2014).
"There are a ton of memories, most of them are probably away from the ice," Vaughan said. "It's the memories of being around the guys, which is another highlight of the job. We've been able to take the guys abroad to Italy and played in the [Friendship Four] Belfast (Ireland) Tournament, those are all memorable moments.
"Certainly the trips to the NCAA Tournament are memorable, but it's a lot of the day-to-day stuff. Just the laughs you have with the guys in the locker room or on the bus. Generations change, but it's funny, the locker room and the bus it seems to be pretty constant."
During the 2003-04 academic year, Vaughan took a brief hiatus from his coaching duties to serve as the University's interim athletics director.
He returned the following season and hasn't looked back.
To Vaughan, the key to such a long stay has been the commitment to setting a high standard, not only on the ice, but off it as well.
"We've tried to do things the right way, I think that has a lot to do with it," he said. "Our main focus, as I think it always should be, is on education. We're very proud of our graduation rate year in and year out. We've tried to treat our student-athletes with the respect they deserve."
Vaughan looks at success in different ways. While happy with the foundation that has been built within the program, he's not willing to let past accomplishments prevent more in the future.
"I'm very proud of the program that we've run here, the fact that its a clean program that we do things the right way," he said. "If we play a small role in helping guys be successful [in real life] then I think we've done our job.
"But of course we want to win. At the end of the day, coaches are judged in large part on wins and losses. Our goal is to get banners on the ceiling and that's still something I'm chasing. I'm looking forward to that challenge."