On Nov. 18, 1977, Jim Tortorella was between the pipes when the University of Maine played its first varsity men’s hockey game at the Alfond Arena, a 7-5 win over Acadia University (Wolfville, Nova Scotia).
He has gone on to become a highly-successful coach at the high school and college level and has just begun his second stint as an assistant at the University of New Hampshire after a 16-year career as the head coach at Colby College in Waterville.
Tortorella is replacing Dave Lassonde, who has left to take a similar position at Denver.
Tortorella had been a restricted earnings coach at UNH during the 1993-94 season.
“I look at it as a very unique opportunity to work with (head coach Dick Umile and assistant Scott Borek). I’m very excited about it,” said Tortorella, who had been Borek’s assistant coach at Colby College before replacing him at Colby when Borek left to become the head coach at Lake Superior State.
“Obviously, UNH has a great program with its history and tradition. It’s something to look forward to,” said the 52-year-old Tortorella. “This was the right move for me.”
UNH has made 10 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and 14 over the last 15 seasons. But the Wildcats have yet to win a national championship.
Tortorella compiled a 230-138-33 record in his 16 seasons at Colby and was a three-time finalist for the NCAA Division III national coach of the year. His teams made 11 NESCAC playoff appearances and three ECAC berths.
After four impressive seasons at Maine in which he appeared in 68 games, posted 38 wins and made 1,941 saves, Tortorella began his head coaching career at Brunswick High School before moving on to Cony High of Augusta. He was a two-time coach of the year at Cony during his five years there.
He is a past president of the American Hockey Coaches Association and was an assistant for the U.S. World Junior teams on two occasions. He also has the title of regional director of player development for USA Hockey on his resume.
Tortorella said he likes the fact he can concentrate just on coaching instead of handling several jobs like he did at Colby. He was a golf coach and a rink manager at Colby and served on several committees.
He spoke highly of the administrators and the players he coached at Colby but said multitasking “takes away from the energy level you put into coaching.”
Tortorella said this job will “stimulate me to be the best coach that I can be. I can really develop with (Umile and Borek).”
There will certainly be stress and pressure but he welcomes the challenge and the opportunity to work in a family-type atmosphere created by Umile and Borek. Tortorella also said having worked with both of them before will make it an easy transition.
The father of two said coaching against Maine will be “awkward” and he is hoping to be part of UNH’s first NCAA title team.
Umile said he is excited to have Tortorella on board.
“He brings a lot of head coaching experience and he is well-respected in the college coaches fraternity,” said Umile, who mentioned Tortortella will oversee the defensive aspect of his team including the goaltenders. “He’s going to be a great addition. He’s a great guy.”
Some CCHA teams heading to WCHA
It appears as though the teams remaining in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, with the exception of the University of Notre Dame, will be absorbed by the Western Collegiate Hockey Association beginning with the 2013-2014 season.
Notre Dame administrators held a press conference last month and stated they still haven’t decided on a conference for the 2013-2014 season.
Two new conferences involving teams now playing in the WCHA and CCHA have been formed for the 2013-2014 season.
Penn State will elevate its program from club to varsity status and play in the newly-formed Big Ten Conference in 2013-14 with WCHA members Minnesota and Wisconsin and CCHA teams Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.
The Big Ten hockey league announcement prompted WCHA powers Denver, Colorado College, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota along with WCHA newcomer Nebraska-Omaha and CCHA heavyweight Miami-Ohio to form the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The leftover WCHA teams will be Minnesota State-Mankato, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State, Alaska-Anchorage, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan and, according to the WCHA website, they have invited CCHA holdovers Alaska-Fairbanks, Lake Superior State, Bowling Green, Ferris State and Western Michigan to join them.
Northern Michigan representatives announced in July they will leave the CCHA for the WCHA beginning in the 2013-14 season.
According to a report in the Kalamazoo Gazette, Lake Superior State, Ferris State and Alaska-Fairbanks have already accepted the WCHA invitation while Bowling Green and Western Michigan have yet to do so.
Western Michigan had been waiting to see where Notre Dame was going, but Western Michigan Athletic Director Kathy Beauregard said in the story that they won’t wait for Notre Dame any longer and will plot their own future.
Notre Dame will most likely join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference or Hockey East.