ORONO, Maine — Newly-named University of Maine men’s hockey coach Dennis “Red” Gendron intends to try to connect with alumni and is joining with the Friends of Maine Hockey boosters group to plan a reunion weekend at the end of August.
Maine has traditionally had an alumni game as part of a weekend of reunion festivities every other summer, but the new event will be a special weekend that will be set aside.
“We need to do a good job with it,” said Gendron, who was named Maine’s new head coach on May 28, replacing the fired Tim Whitehead. “This is not intended to be, nor will it be, an attempt to ask them for financial help. It is designed to show all of our alums the respect they have earned.
“This program, its excellence, its history and its legacy is built upon the back of many players and many coaches spanning a period from 1977-78 until now. All of our alums are prideful of their contributions. It sends chills up my spine to think about it. I have been a part of some pretty special teams here and I have always been able to watch Maine from afar,” said Gendron who was an assistant from 1990-93 and was an assistant on Maine’s first NCAA championship team in 1992-93.
Gendron said he has heard from “a ton” of alums and he has also reached out to some. He wants the special bond shared by Maine hockey alums to become even greater.
“I want the players from the ‘98-99 [NCAA title team] to get to know the players from the ‘87-88 team that was the first one to reach the Frozen Four in Lake Placid,” said Gendron.
Gendron said he would like the weekend to include a day with an event that is open to the public and another day designed for just the alums. And he would like to wrap things up on Sunday so they can leave by noon.
He is elated about new assistant coach and former Black Bear Ben Guite, and said he has until July 1 to name the other assistant.
“That’s where I’m at right now,” said Gendron.
Guite will spend a lot of time on the road as the primary recruiter, while the other assistant will spend more time with Gendron and the team in Orono. All three will be involved in recruiting.
Guite played more than 450 games in the ECHL and AHL before finally getting his chance to play in the NHL. He wound up with an 851-game pro career including 175 in the NHL.
“He will be an inspiration to our players, our recruits and their families in part because of that and mostly because he has unquestionable integrity,” said Gendron. “He persevered [to play in the NHL]. We want all of our players, regardless of their skill level, to compete and to work because that makes up for any deficiencies a player might have relative to talent.
“Those are things Ben did here as a player and he did as a professional player and he will do them as a coach and a recruiter. He will be a great role model for our players,” said Gendron.
Gendron said he is also still working on the schedule. They have 32 games, and he is looking for two more to reach the maximum allowed under NCAA guidelines. They won’t play their annual game in Portland due to renovations at the Cumberland County Civic Center, but he indicated he may look into playing a game at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston.
He said the practice started by Whitehead of bringing freshmen in at the end of July for a month-long indoctrination is a “terrific” idea, and he will continue it.
Alfond Lounge upgrade underway
Frank Jordan, tournament director for the 11th annual Shawn Walsh Memorial Golf Classic to benefit Maine hockey on July 22 at the Martindale Country Club in Auburn, is the project director for the Alfond Family Lounge facelift that is underway.
Proceeds from the tournament will help pay for the renovations which will be in the $30,000-$60,000 range according to Jordan.
Jordan said the renovations include new flooring, carpets, dishwasher, oven, microwave, furniture, projector and screen. The men’s and women’s coaches’ offices will also be improved as will be the entrance to the Shawn Walsh Center. And there will be a new paint scheme.
“We want to get it done by July 24, and then we’ll order the furniture,” said Jordan.
Women’s hockey coach Maria Lewis said the upgrade will be “beautiful,” and they will be able to break down game films with the new projector and screen instead of bringing the projector up from their locker room downstairs.
“The players are going to appreciate [the renovations] and it will help recruiting,” said Lewis.