March 23, 2012

Steve Solloway: Man in the back who helped Maine to the front

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Grant Standbrook recruited the players that helped the University of Maine rise to the top in college hockey.

2002 file/AP

Abbott 'is not cleared to play'

The University of Maine released a short statement Thursday night in response to a question asking for Spencer Abbott's status for Saturday night's NCAA regional playoff game with Minnesota-Duluth. The Maine forward is the country's top scorer.

"As of now, Spencer Abbott is not cleared to play." That came from Laura Reed, the assistant athletic director for public relations.

Abbott was hit in the head with an elbow during last Friday's Hockey East semifinal against Boston University. He was assisted off the ice and didn't return for that game or the championship game against Boston College on Saturday.

– From staff reports


NCAA Northeast Regional

at DCU Center, Worcester, Mass.

Saturday's semifinals

  Boston College (29-10-1) vs. Air Force (21-10-7), 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

MAINE (23-13-3) vs. Minnesota-Duluth (24-9-6), 7:30 p.m. (WPME)

Sunday's final

Semifinal winners, 8 p.m.

AT STAKE: Spot in the Frozen Four on April 5-7 at Tampa, Fla.

Standbrook found Dustin Penner, an unheralded big forward who was playing at Minot State University-Bottineau in North Dakota.

Standbrook didn't know Penner existed until seeing him at a summer tournament. Penner, according to the story Standbrook loves to tell, didn't know the University of Maine had a hockey team.

Penner scored the winning goal for Maine in the semifinals of the 2004 Frozen Four in Boston. He hoisted the Stanley Cup a few years later, playing for Anaheim.

Penner doesn't shy away from what he believes to be a hard truth: If Standbrook hadn't discovered him, he'd be pumping gas in his hometown of Winkler, Manitoba.

In 2002, the Maine Campus newspaper published an April Fool's story. Standbrook got promises from Paul, Steve and Martin Kariya that he'd get first crack at recruiting their children to play hockey.

Standbrook still follows the Black Bears.

As another story was told, Standbrook had a problem picking up a game feed at his home in Naples, Fla., during the Merrimack-Maine Hockey East quarterfinals two weekends ago. Standbrook called someone back north who was watching the game and got the details relayed to him over the phone in real time.

I called him Thursday afternoon. He was rushed. He and his wife, Joy, were moving. Stuff was in his car for a trip across town, the car was running and Joy was waiting. Call me back, he said. They must have been moving more things. We didn't get the chance Thursday night to play catch-up.

He's 74. His life in hockey may have slowed, but it hasn't stopped.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

Twitter: SteveSolloway


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