Friday, December 6, 2013
He's a northern New England guy who speaks fluent French and even played a little summer baseball in Portland's Twilight League.
Meet Dennis "Red" Gendron, expected to be introduced Tuesday as head coach of the University of Maine hockey program.
"I'm excited about Maine's future with him at the helm," said Jim Montgomery, the former Black Bears star recently hired as the University of Denver head coach. "Part of his pedigree is winning championships."
Nothing is official, but a source close to the search confirmed Gendron is the choice to succeed Tim Whitehead, who was bought out in early April with a year left on his contract after 12 seasons.
A 55-year-old native of Berlin, N.H., Gendron played hockey and baseball at New England College in Henniker, N.H., where his coach was Bill Beaney, the longtime hockey coach at Middlebury College.
"He loved the sport," Beaney said by phone from Vermont on Saturday evening. "He studied the sport. He was always willing to help out his teammates in regards to understanding the game and working on skills to get better."
With flowing red hair and a fiery disposition, Gendron spent plenty of time in the penalty box, Beaney remembered, but Gendron was also among the team's scoring leaders as a defenseman and could have played for many Division I programs.
Before landing the NEC job, Beaney had coached high school hockey at Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans, Vt., and later recommended Gendron for his old position. Crossing into Vermont, Gendron led BFA to four state championships in nine seasons.
"He was dedicated, passionate and driven," said Reginald Godin, the retired BFA headmaster.
A history major at NEC, Gendron also taught that subject at BFA, and coached baseball and football as well. Students in study hall, Godin remembered, learned to toe the line with Gendron on watch.
"Red was something of a disciplinarian," Godin said. "He didn't expect any misbehavior from any of the kids in the room."
Another memory was Gendron's graceful reaction on the ice to an opponent's victory.
"When he lost a game, he was one of the most genial coaches I ever had," Godin said. "He shook hands. The game was over."
Gendron joined the college coaching ranks in 1990 to become an assistant to Shawn Walsh at Maine and study for a masters degree in educational administration. He was an assistant in Orono for three seasons, including the 1993 national championship team that finished 42-1-2.
"He's really intelligent, has a very keen hockey mind and is exceptional at teaching through video," said Montgomery, whose hat trick in that 1993 title game brought Maine back from a two-goal deficit.
Upon leaving Maine, Gendron spent 11 years in the New Jersey Devils' organization as an assistant coach, scout and head coach of their AHL affiliate in Albany, N.Y. He contributed to Stanley Cup championships in 1995 and 2000.
He spent one season as head coach of the USHL Indiana Ice, six as an assistant at the University of Massachusetts and the past two as associate head coach at Yale, the reigning NCAA champion.
Yale Coach Keith Allain has known Gendron for three decades and was once his assistant with a USA Hockey developmental team.
"I was surprised that I was able to get him at Yale," Allain said. "He's an unbelievably good teacher, he cares about the kids and he is as trustworthy as the day is long. The people of Maine will soon find that out."
Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: