It’s not surprising that former University of Maine men’s hockey assistant Grant Standbrook will be inducted into the Manitoba Hall of Fame on Nov. 3 even though it is rare for someone to get inducted on the first try.
Jim Montgomery, a two-time All-American and Hobey Baker Award finalist at the University of Maine, probably best summed up Standbrook when he called him the “best one-on-one teacher I have ever been around.”
Montgomery, coach and general manager of the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League, hired Standbrook to be a consultant who comes in and works with his players from time to time.
“With his knowledge and the way he connects with players, he creates the type of learning environment everybody would want. It’s Hockey 101 at the graduate level,” said Montgomery.
As the recruiting coordinator for 18 years at Maine, Standbrook helped the Black Bears go 493-216-66, win two NCAA championships and reach 11 Frozen Fours. He recruited and coached 34 All-Americans and 10 Olympians.
In 2005, he won the Terry Flanigan Award presented by the American Hockey Coaches Association to the nation’s top assistant.
Before coming to Maine, he helped the University of Wisconsin earn three NCAA titles while coaching 18 All-Americans.
He coached 68 NHL players.
You would think that the NCAA championship teams would be the highlight of Standbrook’s career.
“But they aren’t,” said the 74-year-old Standbrook. “It’s all the teams I’ve coached all the way through. I’ve met a lot of wonderful kids and I have kept in touch with them.”
The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native and former University of Minnesota-Duluth hockey star honed his athletic skills by playing a variety of sports from dawn to dusk in a playground near his home.
He has coached virtually every sport there is from gymnastics to track to lacrosse to soccer to hockey. He first coached at the high school level in Manitoba.
He was a high school teacher who soured on the profession “because the students didn’t want to be there. They had to be there.”
But coaching was a different matter. The players wanted to be there and they wanted to learn. He flourished in that atmosphere.
He had a chance to observe Geoff Dyson, the British Olympic track coach for three Olympics, and he read Dyson’s innovative book “Mechanics of Athletics.”
“It was about efficient movement and he believed in a lot of weight training. He felt you couldn’t participate in the Olympics unless you were exceptionally strong,” said Standbrook, who became known for his innovative drills and countless insightful tips that allowed his players to maximize their potential.
He was also considered one of the nation’s best recruiters, if not the best.
The key to his recruiting success?
“Simplicity,” said Standbrook. “I knew what I needed, I knew what I wanted and I knew what the players looked like.”
“There’s no blueprint. You do it your way and remain totally focused,” said Standbrook, who was an assistant for two U.S. national teams and the 1976 U.S. Olympic team and was the hockey head coach at Dartmouth College.
He said although Maine and Wisconsin were completely different schools, they both had “a lot of selling points.”
When you are selling a recruit on a school, you have to make sure the player knows you care about him, he said.
“You have to be concerned about them as people. If you aren’t, it doesn’t matter what you know because they won’t listen to you,” said Standbrook, who has three children with wife Joy and is a grandfather of six.
Standbrook considers his induction “pretty special.”
Grant Standbrook is also a Renaissance man.
He is well versed in many subjects outside of sports.
He is a fascinating man who genuinely cares about people and their families.
Consider yourself fortunate if he is your friend.
He is a wonderful guy who deserves to be called a Hall-of-Famer.