Nick Payson, who was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants last month, has been released from the University of Maine men’s hockey program.
However, Maine coach Tim Whitehead said Payson could be reinstated as soon as the second semester pending the outcome of his trial and other factors.
Those factors would include him improving his academic standing and staying out of trouble.
Payson, a former Bangor High School football and hockey star, was arrested on Route 3 at approximately 1:45 a.m. on July 26.
He was suspended indefinitely by the university.
It was the second time he had been suspended as he had been charged with aggravated assault following a fight in January 2008. He was exonerated of the charges and reinstated to the team.
“Nick’s a good kid. He made a bad decision in this situation and I’ve released him from the team,” said Whitehead. “However, my hope is that Nick will turn this into a positive and improve his academic and social habits so he can earn a spot back on the team in the future.”
Payson has a court date on Sept. 8 in Ellsworth District Court.
“It’s always important to get the real story through the court system. If more facts come out through the court case [in Payson’s favor], I could potentially consider reinstating him for the second semester,” added Whitehead. “But this is not the only concern I have with Nick. He will also need to elevate his performance in the classroom.”
If he is ruled guilty of DUI, he would have to sit out an entire year before being considered for reinstatement, according to Whitehead.
Payson accepted responsibility for his actions.
“I was pretty devastated when Coach Whitehead cut me from the team [Tuesday],” said Payson. “To have a lifelong dream cut short by stupid choices [was hard to take]. I thought I had things under control. I put myself in a tough spot.”
He said in addition to his arrest, he let his academics slide last semester.
“I didn’t have a very good [academic] spring semester so I took a few courses this summer to make sure I was eligible,” added Payson. “This has really opened my eyes. I now understand the importance of school and being on top of everything. The more success you have in the classroom, the more success you have on the ice.”
Payson was also remorseful, saying he let down his family, coaches and teammates.
Payson is a non-scholarship player who was a redshirt two years ago.
This past season, the rugged left winger proved to be an effective checker who also supplied the Bears with a solid physical presence. He didn’t register any points, primarily because he was on checking lines, but he did play in 17 games and earned regular duty in the last four including the best-of-three Hockey East quarterfinal series against eventual NCAA champion Boston University.
“He proved he could play at this level. He fulfilled a role as a physical power forward and his offensive skills improved tremendously over two years. He really surprised a lot of people,” said Whitehead.
In addition to returning to Maine, the 21-year-old Payson could transfer to a Division III school and play immediately or transfer to another Division I school and sit out a year.
He would have three years of eligibility at a Division III school but just two at another Division I institution.
“I’m going to weigh my options. Whatever the outcome, I’m hoping to try to make the best of it,” said Payson, who is hoping they can move the court date up.
Incoming freshman Joey Diamond is also facing charges in the same incident as the 20-year-old was summoned on a charge of possession of an alcohol by a minor.
Diamond won’t be suspended, according to Whitehead, but he has reduced his “margin of error.”
“He isn’t subject to the student-athlete code of conduct because he hasn’t seen it or signed it yet,” said Whitehead. “However, I have met with him and made it quite clear what my expectations are for him as a member of the team. He understands it and I’m confident he’ll use this as a positive to really focus on his reasons for coming to Maine: academics and hockey.”