When (hopefully) the new UMaine men’s hockey coach takes over this summer, one of the very first items on his agenda should be to get former Black Bear Jimmy Howard heavily involved with the program.
Howard just retired from the Detroit Red Wings after an impressive, 14-year National Hockey League career. Unlike most Black Bear alumni, he still has a close connection to our area as he owns a home on Phillips Lake in Dedham. He and his family plan to spend summers relaxing there, and I bet for the right arrangement he’d find time to do some coaching and advising in Orono.
As Howard told Larry Mahoney of the Bangor Daily News, he plans to spend much of his time raising his four kids and “just being a dad.” He already coaches two of his boys who play youth hockey. So realistically he’s not going to be the next head coach at UMaine or even join the full-time staff.
But what an amazing recruiting tool it would be to tell incoming players, especially goaltenders, that they will get some one-on-one time with a three-time NHL all-star.
Howard retired as the Red Wings’ all-time leader in save percentage (.912) and ranks third in goals-against average (2.62) among goalies who appeared in at least 200 games. He is third in games played (543) and wins (246) and is fourth with 24 shutouts in the Red Wings lengthy history.
Howard is perhaps the best goaltender in Black Bear history. At UMaine, he is the career leader in GAA (1.84), save percentage (.931) and shutouts (15). He also owns the single-season records (1.19 GAA, .956 save pct. during 2003-04) and twice posted six shutouts in a season.
He’s an affable guy and today’s players would relate to him well.
Howard said his time at UMaine, where he was tutored by legendary assistant coach Grant Standbrook, played a “massive” role in his career.
“I was able to come into Maine and make an impact right away. I loved the three years I was there,” he said.
His time spent with Standbrook will always be special.
“He’s the best. He’s the reason I went to Maine.”
Howard’s insight and experience would be welcomed by players of all positions and could play a big role in turning around the once proud Black Bear program.
Perhaps he might become the reason future players choose Maine.
Jeff Solari is the founder of the Maine Sports Chowdah, Maine’s only free, weekly sports email newsletter. He has been in sports media since he was 17 and is not shy with his opinions or perspective on the world of sports. The longtime sports broadcaster is a graduate of Mount Desert Island High School and the University of Southern Maine. Previous gigs included WLBZ-TV and WCSH-TV, host of “The Shootaround” talk radio show on WZON and stints with “Downtown” and “The Drive.” Solari has won more than 15 Maine Association of Broadcasters and AP broadcaster awards.