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Brendan Walsh is no stranger to being in the middle of the action on the front line.
The former University of Maine hockey co-captain was a feisty, hard-nosed center who helped lead the Black Bears to their second NCAA championship in 1999. The Boston University transfer racked up 767 penalty minutes in 145 American Hockey League games during his last three full pro seasons.
But the trenches he finds himself in today are much more dangerous.
The Dorchester, Massachusetts, native is a detective in the Boston Police Department. He is a member of the drug control unit in Roxbury.
Walsh, 45, said dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic has made his job more challenging.
“It has been difficult. There is an amount of anxiety that comes with dealing with a cross-section of the population,” Walsh said. “It is harder to do your job with social distancing. It’s a little bit more dynamic.”
He said there has been an uptick in violence in Boston.
“People have been cooped up for so long. Then you look at gang violence and throw in a couple of real nice warm days and you wind up with kids running around doing stupid things,” said Walsh, who wears a facemask and gloves when on duty.
Walsh said the Boston Police Department has been emphasizing the importance of communicating with individuals and defusing potential problems before it leads to an arrest.
“I have had to cultivate certain skills that I have,” Walsh said.
Walsh, who works the 4 p.m. to midnight shift, has been with the Boston Police Department for 14 years and was promoted to detective last year.
He enjoys his job and said it requires a number of character traits.
“You have to have thick skin and you have to lose your ego quickly. With the way policing is now, you have to be able to think on your feet,” he said. “You have to deal with each problem on its own, try to figure it out and analyze the solution based on the information you’ve received.”
He said television and movies glamorize the job, making it seem like it is action-packed all the time. Officers actually spend a lot of time doing paperwork.
“You write a 42-page probable cause affidavit for 10 minutes of action,” Walsh quipped.
Walsh said working for the Boston Police Department is similar to playing on a hockey team.
“I love the men and women I work with,” said Walsh. “There is a sense of camaraderie like you get in a locker room atmosphere. We have goals and we work together as a team to achieve those goals.”
Like a lot of teams, they also are involved in community outreach programs.
Walsh’s hockey career included stops at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury and the Omaha Lancers of the United States Hockey League before he spent two years at Boston University.
He decided to transfer to UMaine.
“I always had Maine on my mind. I knew how special the place was,” Walsh said. “I remember watching Paul Kariya and Maine in ’93 and how good that [national championship] team was. I was a little in awe.”
Coach Shawn Walsh’s charisma and his intense desire to win, the team’s storied tradition and the statewide support and pride in the program sold him on UMaine.
“It meant a lot to put on that Maine jersey,” Walsh said.
He added that he did not want to go to a program that was rebuilding.
“Our goal at Maine was to win a national title and Shawn had a model [to accomplish it],” Walsh said.
He sat out a year due to the NCAA transfer rule but said coach Walsh and assistant Grant Standbrook made a considerable effort keeping him involved in the program.
“I helped with recruiting by hosting a lot of the [recruiting] visits,” Walsh said.
Many of those players, such as Niko Dimitrakos, Doug Janik and Barrett Heisten, wound up as his teammates.
Walsh registered seven goals and 13 assists in 30 games during the championship season but re-injured his knee in the 2-1 overtime win over Boston College in the Frozen Four semifinal in Anaheim, California, and missed the 3-2 overtime win over New Hampshire in the title game.
The following year, Walsh co-captained the team with Cory Larose and posted nine goals and 21 assists in 39 games. UMaine returned to the Frozen Four where it lost to North Dakota 2-0 in the semifinals.
The 5-foot-10, 201-pound Walsh spent five years playing pro hockey, mostly in the American Hockey League, and was a tenacious, physical player who had his share of altercations.
“Being undersized, I had to play with an edge. Fighting didn’t bother me. I had to protect my teammates and set the pace and tempo,” he said.
Walsh said his time at UMaine was special. Two of his other highlights were his first practice and his first home game.
“Having played against those guys for two years [when I was at BU] and having played against some even longer in Massachusetts high school hockey, there was a lot of anxiety,” Walsh said of the first practice. “I was very interested to see how it would play out. There were a lot of measured handshakes and hellos.”
He called putting on the uniform and playing his first game at UMaine incredible.
Walsh stays in touch with his former teammates and they get together every couple of years.
In addition to his police work, Walsh also plays for the Boston Police Department hockey team and in a pickup league.
Walsh and wife Sara have two hockey-playing daughters: Stella, 10, and Lucy, 7. He coaches Stella’s Under-12 team. She has already told him she wants to go to UMaine.
Is she as aggressive as her father?
“She’s my daughter, isn’t she?” he laughed.
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