ORONO — Gary Wright spent five years as the assistant men’s hockey coach at the University of Maine. He coached under Jack Semler before Semler resigned and was replaced by Shawn Walsh in 1984.
Wright, who has been the head hockey coach at American International College in Springfield, Mass., for the past 28 years, will return to the Alfond Arena for the first time next season on Dec. 13-14 when he brings his Yellow Jackets to Orono for a two-game series.
AIC is in Atlantic Hockey.
“It’s certainly going to be nostalgic for me and a great opportunity and a great experience for our players,” said the 60-year-old Wright. “In addition to coaching up there, I was the rink manager for four years and played softball [in men’s leagues] for five years, so I was a little more involved in the community than I might have been otherwise.
“I’ve got pretty fond memories. Five years is a fairly significant chunk of your life so it’s going to be real interesting and somewhat intriguing to return. I’m looking forward to it,” added Wright, whose softball teammates included long-time Bangor-area residents and former Black Bear baseball standouts Dennis Libbey and Dana Corey.
Wright replaced Ted Castle as the assistant coach at Maine as they began play in Division I after spending their first two seasons in Division II.
Maine made the ECAC playoffs in their second season in Division I (1980-81), going 23-11-0.
Maine went 65-92-1 in his five years there.
Wright, who played his college hockey at the University of Vermont, tied the school record at AIC for most wins in the Division I era this past season (12-17-6) and one of those wins (2-1) came over ECAC regular season champ and former (USCHO) No. 1 Quinnipiac. Quinnipiac beat Maine 2-1 in Orono.
AIC became a Division I program in 1998-99. Wright is 292-533-65 in his 28 seasons at AIC.
His team has 12 scholarships, which is the league limit but is six below the NCAA limit, and he has just one full-time assistant, one graduate assistant and a part-time goalie coach.
“We would like to be more successful overall but it has been a fun time. It’s a great work environment. Hopefully, we can get stronger every year and be more competitive on an even bigger stage,” said Wright who added that he learned a lot in his time at Maine and it reinforced his decision to get into coaching.
Update: This story has been corrected. Gary Wright is 60.