November 20, 2018
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It was tough staying a step ahead of Shawn Walsh

AP File Photo | BDN
AP File Photo | BDN
Shawn Walsh coaches a University of Maine hockey game vs. Boston College in March of 2000. Walsh, who coached Maine to two national championships, died 10 years ago after a 15-month battle with kidney cancer.

It was 27 years ago but I can still picture that summer day back in 1984.

UMaine AD Stu Haskell hired this young hotshot assistant coach from Michigan State to take over the Black Bear hockey program. I covered the press conference and listened to this hotshot lay out his plan. “In X years we will compete for the conference title… In X years we will compete for a spot in the NCAA playoffs… And in X years we will compete for the national title”. I remember him saying that.

Then I walked with this hotshot from the press conference over to Alfond Arena. I wanted to get video of the new coach overlooking his new home for the first time. He kept talking and talking about the future on Maine hockey. I remember thinking, you know for a young guy and first-time head coach, there’s something different about his guy.

That was the first time I met Shawn Walsh.

The 10-year mark of the passing of Shawn Walsh has me thinking about the most intriguing sports personality I have ever covered.

No one tried to anticipate, and control, every single detail like Shawn Walsh.

Leading up to the game. Should we be David or Goliath? How do I want the press to view it? How do I want our fans to view it? How do I want the opponent to view it? He thought about every detail.

During the game. Do I get on the ref or show restraint and try to get a call? Do I want the Alfond crowd loud or quiet when we’re on a power play? Do I want them to yell “sieve” or is he the type of goalie that will feed off that? He thought about every detail.

After the game. If I say it was the biggest win of the year, how will the players react? Will that impact what the coach of next week’s opponent puts on his chalkboard? He thought about every detail.

Seventeen fascinating years. Shawn Walsh was the center of sports attention in Maine. Part of my job covering him was to try to stay one step ahead of him and determine what he was really thinking.

I think I did… once or twice.

ITEMS FROM THE DUFFEL BAG:

— Speaking of hockey, I can’t wait for the Boston Bruins opener on October 6th. I love those banner-raising ceremonies! Anyone worried about a Stanley Cup hangover?

— The Cup spends one day in Maine and it’s in Cornish?

Among the 4-0 football teams in Maine — the Houlton Knights of the Maine State Eight Man Football League. And you thought fast-break basketball was the big thing in the County!

— Wonder what John Farrell is really thinking when he sees the Red Sox pitching.

— I have yet to run into anyone who says “what am I going to do with no NBA?” To both sides of the lockout issue, enjoy your time off.

—Time to bring a MMA fight night to Bangor. I’m curious to see how it would draw.

— Best football matchup of the week: unbeaten Bucksport at unbeaten John Bapst, Saturday night at 7. We’ll have it for you on AM620 WZON!

Dale Duff is a sportscaster and program director at WZON radio station in Bangor and is also a former news reporter and sports director of WLBZ-TV of Bangor.


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