OLD TOWN, Maine — Old Town High School hockey coach Brett Hale, who led the Coyotes to their first postseason appearance since 1993 two years ago and followed that up with another appearance this past season, has resigned after five years to spend more time with his son, Khaleb.
“If there is anything I have learned from the parents [of his players], it’s that time goes by real fast and you can’t get it back,” Hale said. “I want to embrace the time I have with my son.”
Hale’s 7-year-old son is following in his father’s footsteps and is playing hockey at the mites level.
The 39-year-old Hale played for Orono High School before earning a degree in wildlife management from the University of Maine in 1994.
“I want to teach him the sport. I’d like to coach one of his teams,” Hale said. “I also want to do more outdoor stuff and make sure we have more quality time together.”
Hale was named the Coach of the Year in Eastern Maine Class B a year ago after leading Old Town to an 11-7-1 record and its berth in the regional semifinals. Old Town had won just five games the previous two years combined.
The Coyotes went 9-8-1 during the regular season this season before beating Hampden Academy 3-2 in overtime in the quarterfinals. They were eliminated by Brewer 7-1 in the semifinals.
When Hale took over the Old Town job five years ago, he knew there were going to be rebuilding years.
“We weren’t going to change things overnight,” he said. “We focused on discipline and showing the kids that there were going to be repercussions for poor behavior.
“We went back to basics. We wanted the kids to be disciplined. We wanted their parents to be able to watch their kids with pride and we wanted to get the fan base back,” said Hale, whose team won the EM Class B sportsmanship award in his first three seasons.
He also wanted to entice the players from Union 90, who live in surrounding towns such as Bradley and have a choice of high schools, to attend Old Town instead of his alma mater.
Old Town had been losing players to Orono, but that situation improved under Hale.
“As the discipline started and we became fun to watch, kids stayed put and came to Old Town,” said Hale.
However, he also said he would like to see the two schools merge their hockey programs because both are low on numbers.
“We have consolidated JV programs the past two years,” Hale said. “The kids know and like each other. Hopefully, they can lay the foundation [for the merger] because both schools could potentially lose their programs.”
He has been pleased with Old Town’s turnaround.
Old Town used to be a dominant program and won two state championships under Gene Fadrigon.
“You’re only as good as your supporting cast and I’ve had great assistant coaches and great kids and the school system has supported me 100 percent,” Hale said. “Without that, you couldn’t have anything.
“We had a goal to get them back to the Gene Fadrigon days. We wanted to get to the point where they were competitive again. We knew it was going to take time and patience but, at the end of the day, they reaped the benefits.”
Hale, who owns his own business, Pinnacle Painting, said he would like to eventually return to coaching but his son comes first right now.
Latendresse gets wonderful homecoming
The Messalonskee High School Eagles of Oakland had a little extra incentive before Tuesday’s 5-2 win over Brewer in the Eastern Maine Class B championship game.
The game was played at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena, where 10-year Messalonskee head coach Mike Latendresse played for two seasons.
Latendresse, a highly skilled speedster with a scoring touch, played on Maine’s 1992-93 NCAA championship team and on the following year’s team as well.
“This was a homecoming for Coach Latendresse and it definitely feels good to win it for him,” said senior goalie Nate DelGiudice, whose outstanding 35-save performance was one of the major keys to the win.
“He’s meant the world to our program. He prepares us so well for every game. He’s an outstanding coach.”
“Coming back to his home rink, we didn’t want to disappoint him,” said senior right wing and captain Sam Dexter, who had a pair of goals. “Coach Latendresse deserves a lot of credit. He works his tail off and prepares us [thoroughly] for every game.”
“This is a great feeling,” said the 41-year-old Latendresse. “This is the goal every year. This team is special. This is the best team we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Latendresse called on his experiences at Maine to relax his jubilant Eagles after Brewer took a timeout with 1:23 left in the second period. Messalonskee had just scored to take a 4-0 lead.
“They were too high. They were giddy, and that can hurt you,” said Latendresse. “I told them to calm down, refocus, get back on track and keep doing the little things. I said, ‘I’ve been here before so trust me.’ They calmed down and played a tremendous third period. We always talk about controlling our emotions … never getting too high or too low. They did that. They turned in an amazing effort.”
After allowing 32 shots through the first two periods, Messalonskee limited the high-scoring Witches to five shots in the third period.
“Brewer has a very talented and a very skilled team,” said Latendresse. “To hold them to five shots on goal in the third period is very impressive.”