BANGOR, Maine — The connection between new University of Maine men’s ice hockey head coach Dennis “Red” Gendron and former UMaine hockey coach Shawn Walsh has fans excited, hopeful and setting high expectations for the future of the program.
“I think it’s a great choice. I think he is going to be a great head coach and I’m glad he has a history with the University of Maine and his connection to Shawn Walsh,” said UMaine hockey fan Mark Brunton.
“I’m very excited for the future,” he added.
“I think it’s a good addition to the UMaine hockey team. It’s good to see someone who played for a legacy of UMaine hockey to come back and who was called up during the [Shawn] Walsh era to be back at the helm,” said Jeremy Taylor.
Fans, alumni, and boosters of the University of Maine hockey team gathered at Season’s Grille early Tuesday evening to meet Gendron shortly after his formal introduction at Alfond Arena in Orono earlier in the afternoon.
Gendron got his start in college hockey under the late Walsh as an assistant coach on the 1993 national championship team and has been successful at the professional level as well. He has championship rings from the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and their American Hockey League affiliate Albany and won the NCAA national championship with Yale University last season as an assistant coach.
Fans are expecting him to bring that success back to UMaine.
“I expect him to make the NCAAs in this first year. The Frozen Four would be a little bit too much to ask this year,” said UMaine hockey fan Ed Gimbert.
Bringing back the crowds to the Alfond Arena and national recognition to the program and the state are important to one alum.
“I would say as somebody who has been to the hockey games, I’m really looking forward to filling the arena and having that excitement. It is really fun,” said Karen Boucias, director of international programs at UMaine and member of the Class of ‘71.
“When I used to come back from an overseas trip, when I came through New York City, they would look and say, ‘Maine, what do you do?’ and I would say, ‘I’m from the Office of International Programs,’ and they would say, ‘The Black Bears, I love that hockey team.’ I’m not kidding, that is how it was. I’m really excited,” she added.
Gendron will provide a fresh start for a program that has been struggling. Gendron mentioned recruiting will be a major part of his job while at UMaine, and his connection with former UMaine assistant and recruiter Grant Standbrook had one fan seeing a bright future for the program.
“He seems to be very passionate about Maine hockey. Hopefully he will bring a great future and lead us to great things,” said David Taylor. “[The direction of the program] is going well. He mentioned Standbrook and how he will be able to recruit the best of the best. Hopefully the program will go in the right direction.”