After another disappointing season for the University of Maine men’s hockey team, failing to reach the Hockey East semifinals for the seventh year in a row, many fans are looking for someone to blame.
Head coach Red Gendron is one such target. Gendron recently completed his sixth season in Orono and has compiled a lackluster 82-115-25 record (0.426), including a 4-12 mark in league playoff games.
Gendron and athletic director Ken Ralph also point to aging facilities, low coaching salaries and difficulty in convincing players to play in Orono as reasons why the program has suffered.
Bangor Daily News readers also had their own opinions about the hockey program, its coaching staff, and more. Here are some of the top comments left by our readers, edited lightly for clarity.
@uncle_clifford, via Disqus: Oh where to begin. BC, BU, NU, PC, UMass, and UML all have better programs and facilities. Add to that, the location: who wants to stay and play for a mediocre coach on a distant campus that has little to offer in the off season? The glory years for Maine hockey are long past, and unless they want to remain irrelevant they must adapt and stop making excuses for their bad choices. Sure, improve Alfond but above all start the search now for a new coach with fresh ideas and not be complacent with the career assistant you currently have. He’s had more than enough time.
@billy G, via Disqus: Having read the story, it is obvious Red is here 2 more years. This was the year of expectations that did not materialize. The year that most of the scorers failed to equal the previous years output. Failed in the first round of Hockey East playoffs. Failed to make the NCAA tournament again. These were all reasonable expectations for this team and not one came to pass. I think a telling point came in the final game in the Hockey East playoffs. Maine was behind 2-1 and going on the power play with 5 min remaining. This was a win or go home game, and a critical point in the game. It is inconceivable that the goaltender was not pulled for the extra skater, but that did not happen. It certainly looked as though the game had been conceded at that point. This was purely a coaching decision, an opportunity lost, and ultimately a season-ending decision. The power play failed again and the game, and season, were lost. BU and BC had mediocre seasons but both were more successful in the HE tournament then Maine. BC eliminated 2 much better teams and played for the championship. BU progressed to the second round and lost a close game to the eventual champ. These two teams progressed because of coaching not because of better personnel. In fact you could argue Maine had better personnel. You can blame facilities all you want, winning is what will bring better recruits not new/rehabbed facilities. Coaching is the key element in winning!!
Zach Woodward, via Facebook: Lower ticket prices, fill the Alfond again — that will help recruiting. He’s not working with the players that previous coaches had. The good old days are gone, no Walsh/Standbrook to attract the best talent. But we do have Alfond, which was part of the appeal when it was a full house. What top-end talent is going to commit to UMO and an empty rink when there are vastly more appealing options in Massachusetts?
@BlackBearNutCase, via Disqus: You need an Amy Vachon-type coach. Younger with new ideas … more relatable to the younger athlete and guess what? She’s winning.
Also the athletic department seems to escape criticism? You had a chain of mediocre ADs and made a deal with Learfield that I question is it the Learfield Blackbears not UMaine BB. And we don’t have the presence of some of the donors and door soldiers … they were around during the winning years of hockey program that took a significant responsibility to promote all [of Maine] and athletics. for example you knew the head coach was for hockey but you also knew who was the AD. The university itself has pushed away some of the longtime, effective, boosters who gave basically gave all their free time to the UMaine sports whether it be football, hockey, basketball, etc. and Walsh knew how to exploit that as he was a leader of leaders. The athletic department is in the silo within a cocoon of the University of Maine administration. I seriously doubt at this point that the Chancellor down to the president of the campus here in Orono really care [whether] the Athletics succeed or not. So there’s been for several years a ack of leadership both at the campus level, to the president, at the Chancellor’s level for the system, and at the ADs level AND several of the well healed, big time donors like the Alfond to Mahaney’s are no longer with us anymore.
Have no answers but clean house.
@somewhrinmaine, via Disqus: So now it is the infrastructure that made the team do poorly. What excuse will they come up with next? Face it, you have nothing to offer the talent that is out there. Time to shut the program down and put the money towards education.
@Norc1954, via Disqus: You get what you pay for. It is embarrassing that Maine pays its coaches so little, but what do you expect from a state that is last in what it pays its governor and close to the bottom for judges?
And you do need the “wow” factor for new recruits. Better facilities would help. And can’t do much about the location and weather, though Bangor compares favorably with places like Grand Forks, North Dakota.
What about flying in Paul Kariya, Garth Snow and others to meet with recruits? Anyway, this article and the comments below it will do nothing to help the situation. All a recruit needs to do is Google this and sayonara.
@jtsailjt, in response to @Norc1954’s comment above, via Disqus: A salary of over $200,000 affords a very comfortable lifestyle in the Bangor area. It’s more than most attorneys or general practice doctors make around here. For that same salary we could have had Montgomery and he was a great college hockey coach, so I don’t agree that lack of salary is the reason for our subpar coaching.
Better locker rooms and weight room might help attract some recruits but so would a loud and packed Alfond.
I’m not sure that Kariya and Snow or any of the great alums from that era would make a big impression on recruits. Those names mean something to us old fans but today’s recruits weren’t even old enough to watch hockey when those players were in the headlines.
We just need to hire a young, energetic, charismatic coach with connections to young players. In interviews, Red frequently sounds like he might have dozed off in mid sentence. Our hockey program needs a boost of energy and Red clearly doesn’t have any to spare.
Paige Fournier, via Facebook: It’s not Red’s or any other coach’s fault. The players should be more aggressive when it comes to [playing] with the toughest teams in college league. That being said, look on the bright side. We defeated Massachusetts for once.
UMaine will go to the Frozen Four again, just have to get the players to help the team to get there.
@McPeter, via Disqus: I suspect if Red isn’t successful next year with at least an appearance in Boston for the Hockey East semis then he will likely be bought out of his final year. I agree with the earlier poster that they need a young dynamic head coach. Former UMaine player Kevin Swallow who has done a fantastic job as head coach at D-3 Univ. of New England comes to mind.
I was at the Regional in Providence this past weekend and it just isn’t the same without UMaine and even UNH involved. I attended the pregame Friars party at the Union Station Brewery on Saturday. If UMaine was in the Regional the crowd at Union Station would have been twice the amount that the Friars fans brought. How I miss those days!
@Steven Chaff, via Disqus: Facts. UMaine admin. should be ashamed.
Shawn Walsh 399-215-44
Tim Whitehead 250-171-54
Red Gendron 82–115–25