Men’s Ice Hockey Preview: What It Means To Be From UMaine

After Boston College won the 2012 NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey national championship, I vividly remember seeing a tweet pop up in my Twitter timeline from the University of Maine athletic department (@BlackBearNation).  The tweet noted that Maine had beaten the just-crowned national champion Eagles twice during the regular season.  Upon first reading, I didn’t think much of the tweet.  Then I read it again.  And again.  And again.  Every time I read it, I got angrier, and angrier, and angrier.  It was as if we, the alumni, supporters, and lovers of the University of Maine, should be proud that Maine was competitive during the regular season against a hated rival who, oh by the way, just won the national championship.

I, however, wasn’t happy.  I was pissed.  I was pissed that BC just won the national championship for the fourth time in the millennium.  More than that, however, I was pissed that the University of Maine seemed okay with it. 

Growing up in Bangor and attending countless UMaine hockey games with my season ticket-holding brother-in-law (that’s Stephen Coutts, the Godfather of Fill The Steins, for those of you scoring at home) during the heyday of the program, I was raised to expect excellence from Black Bear hockey.  Sending a tweet “bragging” about two relatively meaningless regular season victories against the eventual national champions did not meet those expectations. 

That’s why it was great to see the University of Maine step out of the complacency zone in which they’d been spending the better part of the last six or seven years to announce the hiring of Dennis “Red” Gendron as head coach of the hockey program.  Gendron is the very best link to the Shawn Walsh era of Maine hockey, as he was an assistant coach on the legendary 42-1-2 team that won the 1993 national championship.  Gendron also has three Stanley Cup championships on his resume from his days in the New Jersey Devils organization.  But it was Gendron’s words at his introductory press conference back in May that really warmed my heart.

“My vision for this program is one that will compete for championships every season,” said Gendron on May 28, the day after he was hired.  “It is a sold out Alfond Arena every time we play.  It is trips to the TD Garden to compete for Hockey East championships, and trips to the NCAA tournament.”

Gendron went on to specifically address his link to the glory days of Maine hockey and his intent to reintroduce the program to that level of success.

“I want this generation of Maine men to experience what the ’93 and ’99 [national championship] teams did.  How will we do it?  Well, first, we’ll hire the best coaches and recruiters available.  We’ll want to recruit men who want to win championships and men who want to become professional hockey players.  We want men of character, who love hockey as we do, who appreciate what it takes to win, but also want to be great students and great citizens,” concluded Gendron.

In a single press conference, Gendron was able to ease a lot of the frustration I, and many other UMaine supporters, had after reading that tweet in the spring of 2012.  Red Gendron knows what it takes to be a winner.  Even more importantly than that, Gendron knows what it means to be from UMaine.  He understands the University of Maine is a hockey school.  A hockey school deserves a great hockey team.  A hockey school deserves a great hockey coach.  The Black Bears will need to prove their greatness on the ice, not in press conferences.  But Gendron’s vision is clear — a sold-out Alfond Arena, a national championship-contending team year in and year out, and a general enthusiasm around the program that’s been absent for years.

I’m trying to be careful not to get my expectations too high, too soon.  After all, most of the players on Gendron’s roster will be carryovers from a team that finished 11-19-8 and had a really, really, REALLY hard time scoring goals last year.  It takes time to rebuild a program, especially to the level that Maine hockey fans expect.  But Gendron’s vision is sound, his resume speaks for itself, and his love for the UMaine hockey program is unmatched.  So, for the first time a decade, I’m excited about UMaine hockey.  More importantly, I’m proud to be an alumnus of a proud hockey school.

Photo courtesy

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

About "Fill The Steins": A multimedia platform devoted to providing an informative, entertaining forum that celebrates "the college of our hearts always" and its graduates' contributions to academics, athletics, and popular culture, as created by alumni and students, for alumni and students. FTS is not affiliated with the University of Maine or UMaine System and does not represent the views or opinions of the university in any way, shape, or form.
Copyright © Fill The Steins

This blog has been archived

This blog has been archived and is no longer being updated.