Former University of Maine men’s hockey All-American Jim Montgomery has made a career change.
After spending four years as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., Montgomery has been named the general manager and head coach of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League.
It will be a first-year franchise, although Dubuque previously had a USHL franchise from 1980-2001.
“It’s exciting,” said the 40-year-old Montgomery, a former Hobey Baker Award finalist. “This is a chance to run my own program in the best Tier I Junior Hockey League in North America.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to work for a tremendous ownership group [Northern Lights Hockey LLC],” added Montgomery.
The ownership group includes three former Harvard University hockey teammates: managing director Brad Kwong, principal owner Phil Falcone and part owner Peter Chiarelli, the general manager of the NHL’s Boston Bruins.
“It was really tough to leave RPI. They’re in position to make a great run next year. It was hard to leave for an expansion franchise,” said Montgomery. “But being able to grow as a head coach and make my own decisions and to be able recruit and draft players I believe in was too tough to pass up. It’s such a great league and they get a lot of game experience: 60 [regular-season] games plus playoffs.”
RPI went 18-17-4 this past season after going 31-68-4 over the previous three seasons.
The league is composed of players ages 16-20 and the 14 teams produced 228 players who have committed to play at Division I schools in the future. There are 141 active NHL players who played in the USHL.
Montgomery, who had a 122-game NHL career, signed a multiyear contract and said he is getting a “significant raise” over his salary at RPI.
He wouldn’t disclose the financial details, but it is believed to be in the vicinity of $90,000 per year.
He learned about the job when he received a phone call from a friend who coaches in the league.
“After concluding a lengthy and thorough search process and speaking to a number of highly qualified candidates, it became clear to us that Jim was the right candidate for our organization,” Kwong said on USHL.com. “Jim has great character and has demonstrated throughout his career to be a true competitor, a born leader and a winner. His knowledge of and passion for the game impressed us throughout the process.”
Montgomery, who had his No. 19 jersey retired at Maine, where he is still the career points leader, wants to eventually be a head coach at a Division I program and feels this is a beneficial move toward achieving that goal.
He added it would open more professional hockey doors since he is also the general manager. However, he reiterated college hockey is his first love.
“This is the best step for me as far as my personal growth as a [head] coach. This would make my resume more appealing in the future,” said Montgomery. “But there are only 58 Division I hockey jobs. They are hard to come by.”
The Fighting Saints will play in a new 3,200-seat arena and Montgomery said the traits he will be looking for in his players will be creativity and competitiveness.
“You also have to have a physical element and I’ve addressed that already with a 6-foot-5, 255-pound RPI recruit,” said Montgomery.