ORONO, Maine — Tyler Walsh, the eldest son of legendary hockey coach Shawn Walsh, followed in his grandfather’s footsteps to Michigan State, but felt a calling from the University of Maine and transferred after just two years.
“It was the best decision he ever made,” his mother, Tracey Mason, said Saturday as her son and the rest of the UMaine graduating Class of 2013 entered Alfond Arena, which now is home to the Shawn Walsh Hockey Center.
Tyler Walsh, who has spent the last three years as a manager with the Black Bears, earned a degree in communications. His mother, grandfather and former Michigan State University head coach Ron Mason, grandmother Marion Mason, younger brother Travis Walsh, a freshman MSU defenseman, and aunt Cindy Mason were at the graduation ceremony to celebrate his accomplishment.
“He was part of the staff and it gave him a lot of direction,” Tracey Mason said of her son, who wants to become a hockey coach and has learned he will soon be heading to the Czech Republic to film hockey for a U.S. team.
Her son was a jack-of-all-trades for the Black Bear hockey team, with videotaping responsibilities being his specialty. Tyler Walsh learned a lot about hockey while sitting with the coaches after games as they broke down the plays on the game tapes he recorded.
He also made a stronger connection to his father, his mother said. Shawn Walsh died of cancer in 2001, when Tyler was just 10 years old, and hearing the stories about his father as part of the UMaine team has helped him to grow, she said.
Shawn Walsh started out as an assistant coach for Ron Mason, who still has the most college hockey wins on record.
“Shawn Walsh was my assistant coach at Bowling Green [State University] and Michigan State and then he came here and got the hockey coaching job,” the retired veteran coach said.
That was 1984.
“The last time I was in this building I was coaching hockey for Michigan State and Shawn was coaching for Maine,” Ron Mason said.
Walsh was not his son-in-law at the time, he recalled. Shawn Walsh later married his daughter, Tracey, and they had Tyler and Travis.
Tyler Walsh was 5 when his parents divorced and he, his brother and mother moved back to Michigan. The Walsh brothers spent summers in Orono and every other Christmas in Veazie with their father, who coached the Black Bears’ hockey team for 17 seasons and led them to two national titles before losing his battle with cancer.
Fond memories of his summers in Maine and getting to know the Black Bear hockey players are reasons Tyler felt a calling to return to UMaine, his mother said.
She said that his last year at UMaine has been a tough one, due to an ongoing illness, but that didn’t stop her son from earning his degree.
“He’s driven, just like his father was,” Tracey Mason said. “His father always said, ‘Adversity makes you stronger.’ And it has.”
BDN reporter Larry Mahoney contributed to this story.