ORONO, Maine — By his own admission, this week has been a “whirlwind” for Red Gendron, who was introduced as the new men’s hockey coach at the University of Maine on Tuesday at the Alfond Arena.
His top priority this week is interviewing candidates for the two full-time assistant jobs.
He did take a day, Wednesday, to honor a media obligation in Portland.
“My primary focus is deciding what our staff is going to look like. That is the most important thing I will do this summer,” said Gendron.
In addition to interviewing candidates, Gendron said he has been “bouncing ideas” off trustworthy friends in the hockey community pertaining to the assistant coach search.
“At the end of the day, I have to make the decision. But I’m smart enough to know I can count on certain people to give me a different perspective,” said Gendron who has interviewed five candidates so far and will interview two more on Saturday.
He has been contacted by more than 20 candidates, he said.
Gendron knows what he wants.
“Both assistants are going to have to be good recruiters,” said Gendron. “One will be a little more seasoned and the other will be a little bit younger and will spend more time on the road. But there is going to be some flexibility, too.”
He is hoping to name his two new full-time assistants within two weeks.
The Maine coaching staff will take in a number of summer camps, including a USA Hockey Under-18 camp that will involve Bob Corkum, the former associate head coach and interim head coach at Maine who was named the head coach of the U.S. Under-18 team that will participate in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament in Slovakia in August.
“We will make some assessments,” explained Gendron. “We aren’t going to pick any players out because, based on my experience, summer hockey doesn’t give you the full measure [of a player’s capabilities] or the intensity [to assess a player].
“However, at the very least, you do get an idea of what a player’s skill levels are and what dimensions he can bring to the table,” said Gendron who has also been acquainting himself with current and incoming players.
Gendron said he has talked to both Corkum and former associate head coach Dan Kerluke about the assistant’s job but Kerluke has since indicated that he is going to get out of coaching to run a business with former Maine volunteer assistant/goalie coach Dave Alexander.
“My job is to make sure we, as a staff, work really hard to develop our guys as players, students and individuals. We want them to be as successful as possible. Our program is about growth,” said Gendron.
He will follow the example of the late Shawn Walsh, the former Maine coach Gendron assisted for three years, and empower his assistants to work with the players in their areas of expertise.
Gendron said they will recruit everywhere and they won’t hesitate to go head-to-head with other schools in their own backyards, such as recruiting against Boston College, Boston University and Northeastern for Boston-area players.
“We have so much to sell,” insisted Gendron. “There isn’t another program I know of that has a more intense, knowledgeable and passionate fan base than the one at the University of Maine.”
He said the program has many great things to offer a young hockey player.
“He will get the chance to play in an environment in which hockey is really, really important not only to the university but also to the community and the entire state,” he said. “If we do a good job and sell that and also sell the exceptional (educational) quality of the university, why wouldn’t he come to Maine?”
Gendron’s three Stanley Cup rings earned during his 11 years as an assistant coach and AHL head coach in the New Jersey Devils organization will also be beneficial he said.
“With my experience in professional hockey, I have a pretty good idea what it takes to become a good pro and what you have to do to prepare as a college player,” he said.