Editor’s note: University of Maine men’s hockey associate head coach Ben Guite was promoted to interim head coach on Wednesday. Read the story here.
With the sudden passing of University of Maine head hockey coach Red Gendron, who died Friday of an apparent heart attack at Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono, the search for a replacement will begin.
The new coach will be entrusted to return a program — that has won two NCAA championships and appeared in 11 Frozen Fours and 18 NCAA Tournaments — to the upper echelon of college hockey.
The Black Bears haven’t reached the Hockey East semifinals or the NCAAs since 2012.
Gendron was the lowest paid coach in Hockey East at $213,282.08, UMaine has the second-lowest recruiting budget and 45-year-old Alfond Arena is in need of upgrades.
Even so, the position is an attractive one on the national landscape. Here is a list of potential candidates, in alphabetical order:
Jack Capuano: The former UMaine All-America defenseman and NHL player, 54 is an associate coach with the Ottawa Senators. He spent seven seasons as the head coach of the New York Islanders, guiding them to three playoff berths and a 227-192-64 regular-season record. Capuano is married to Bangor native Donna Stevenson and they have a home in Bangor. His NHL experience would be attractive to recruits, but Capuano has always been a professional coach, so he would have to adapt to the NCAA game.
Bob Corkum: The 53-year-old is a former Black Bears standout who enjoyed a 12-year, 720-game NHL career. He likely would not be available until the 2022-23 season because he is the head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team and is preparing for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Corkum was the UMaine’s associate head coach for five years under Tim Whitehead but lost out to Gendron in the search process. His NHL resume and USA Hockey experience would be valuable recruiting tools.
Ben Guite: The 42-year-old was an assistant under Gendron for eight seasons and is now UMaine’s associate head coach. Guite could get the first crack at the position if he is appointed the interim head coach for the 2021-22 season. Prior to UMaine, he had just concluded a 13-year pro career, including 175 NHL games, when he was hired.
The Montreal native, who played on UMaine’s 1999 national championship team, has developed as a coach and recruiter and knows the college landscape. He is well-liked and respected by the players and is more laid back than Gendron was.
Eric Lang: The 45-year-old guided American International College to its first NCAA Tournament berth in 2019 and this season lost to top seed St. Cloud State in the first round to finish at 15-5. The Yellow Jackets’ roster includes players from eight countries. The former Army assistant, in his fifth year at AIC, is 59-33-2 the past three seasons. He replaced former UMaine assistant Gary Wright.
Nate Leaman: The former Old Town High School and UMaine assistant, 48, is one of the most respected coaches in college hockey. In 10 seasons at Providence College, he has produced nine winning seasons, six NCAA Tourney appearances and the Friars’ first national title in 2015. He had spent eight years as the head coach at Union.
Leaman will return as the head coach of the U.S. World Junior team next winter after leading them to the gold medal this past season. He would be a long shot, since it would result in a pay cut and because he is rumored to be a candidate to coach the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
Jim Montgomery: This is another unlikely hire, but the school’s all-time leading scorer’s coaching resume speaks for itself. If the St. Louis Blues assistant wants the job, he would have to be considered the favorite. Conservative UMaine would have to be willing to give him a chance after his struggle with alcohol cost him his job as the head coach of the Dallas Stars.
The former UMaine All-American, national champion and NHLer went into rehab and has been sober for more than a year. The 51-year-old has won wherever he has gone. Montgomery led Denver to the NCAA title in 2017 and was 125-57-26 in his five seasons, all leading to NCAA tourney appearances. He would put people in the seats at Alfond Arena.
Greg Moore: The Lisbon native, a former UMaine All-American and captain, is in his first full season as the head coach of the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League. Moore, 37, led the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League to a berth in the Clark Cup finals his first year and was 15-4-1 there before taking the Marlies job. He had previously been an assistant for the USA National Development Team Under-18 team. The diversity in his young coaching career, his connections with the USHL and USA teams and his knowledge of the UMaine program would serve him well.
Ron Rolston: The 54-year-old has an extensive resume and is the associate head coach under Leaman at Providence. He is the winningest coach in the history of the USA National Team Development Program with the Under-17 and Under-18 teams.
Rolston has been a head coach at the NHL (Buffalo) and AHL levels and had previous college experience as an assistant at Lake Superior State, Clarkson, Harvard and Boston College. This would be his first head coaching job at the college level but he is familiar with Hockey East.