BRUNSWICK — Terry Meagher was in Hawaii last week, a golfing vacation.

“I’ve never been there before,” he said the day before he flew out.

Retirement has its perks.

Meagher is stepping down after 33 years as the men’s hockey coach at Bowdoin College. He leaves a legacy of success – 542 career wins (sixth all-time among NCAA Division III coaches), a .669 wining percentage (10th all-time), two New England Small College Athletic Conference championships, two ECAC titles – and much more.

“He’s really been an institution, not just in the athletic department but for the entire campus community,” said Tim Ryan, the Bowdoin athletic director. “He was a model for everything our campus community is about – supporting peers, students, faculty, engaged in administration. He has always done things the right way and that is something that will certainly stick with me and many members of our community.

“He had a great compass that guided him through his 33 years here.”

Meagher, 63, replaced the legendary Sid Watson as the Polar Bears’ coach for the 1983-84 season. Watson had coached for the previous 24 years, winning 326 games. It wasn’t easy replacing Watson, but Meagher created a legacy of his own with a record of 542-253-58.

“I would like to think that I maintained some type of consistency in the program and that matters,” said Meagher. “I was able to build on Sid’s core philosophy. It was pleasing to watch players grow and develop, not only on the ice but as persons.”

Thirty-three years, he decided before this last season began, was enough.

“That’s a long run,” said Meagher, a 1976 Boston University graduate. “I believe wholeheartedly that it’s time for a younger voice, not that there were any issues or problems. I think the program is in a relatively good place.”

His teams were always among the most competitive in the NESCAC, his players among its best. Seven achieved All-America status. He’ll tell you that they made it much easier for him.

“Coaching is important,” he said. “We are responsible for bringing in the right players with the right match. But I scored my last goal in 1976. I took my last hit in front of the net from a BC player in 1976. The players win the games. For us to look at it as me having ‘X’ number of wins tells you that I had some pretty good players.”

Ryan said Bowdoin would like to have his successor in place by the middle of May, before school breaks for the summer. The job should attract many candidates, given the program’s history, a state-of-the-art facility in Watson Arena and the strong community support.

Meagher announced his retirement in October, before the start of this last season. He wanted his players to know, and more important he wanted the school’s recruits to know. He didn’t want anyone to be misled.

“I can tell you that recruiting went well and that I’m excited with this incoming class, as students and character people and athletes,” said Meagher. “And that tells you that it’s the institution that it’s all about.”

Meagher related how he told one recruit he wouldn’t be coaching next season. “He told me, ‘I don’t care, Coach, it doesn’t matter. I’m coming anyway,’ ” said Meagher. “It was a little humbling but it put things into perspective.”

He didn’t want this last season to be about him.

Matt Rubinoff, a senior center from Oakville, Ontario, and captain of this year’s team, initially was surprised by Meagher’s announcement. But once the season started no one talked about it. Rubinoff didn’t see much of a change in the way Meagher approached a practice or game. The Polar Bears were 13-8-4 this winter.

“He demanded a lot of you,” said Rubinoff. “He wasn’t the type of guy to come in and yell at you, to point people out explicitly. If you wanted to talk to him there was an open-door policy where you could talk one-on-one. And he could be blunt with you. He was demanding and expected a lot out of you. And you had to be prepared to get better on a day-to-day basis.

“He brought the best out in you.”

Rick Ganong, the senior vice president for development and alumni relations at Bowdoin, played on Meagher’s first three teams at Bowdoin. “I always felt, and I got to know Terry very well after I graduated, that he was a guy who could have done anything,” said Ganong. “He could have been a banker, a lawyer, a professor. He’s a really, really bright guy, he’s very personable. He could coach anything.”

He added Meagher was extremely competitive, especially on the golf course. “On the outside he’ll just be walking down the fairway, twirling his club, whistling,” he said. “But on the inside he wanted to beat you more than anything else.”

Ganong, whose daughter Kimmy plays field hockey and ice hockey at Bowdoin, noticed a change in Meagher over the years.

“He’s certainly mellowed,” said Ganong. “He used to be a lot more dramatic behind the bench. If you go back and look at old videos, you’ll see him collapse against the glass or stand on the dasher.”

Rubinoff said this year that Meagher was “a little more open with the team, maybe a little more sentimental.”

One thing that didn’t change over the years was Meagher’s expectations of his players.

“He was very serious,” said Ganong. “I’ll never forget that first meeting he held. It started at four o’clock. Two guys came in at 4:01. He just said, ‘Guys, I’ll see you in my office first thing in the morning.’ They didn’t get to participate.

“No hats on. Hats off. Everyone paid attention. That was our introduction to Terry Meagher. No one was late to a meeting after that.”

His practices were always competitive. And he loved winter break, when there were no classes. He would work on conditioning and individual drills.

“We skated twice a day,” said Ganong. “The rink was unscheduled for the whole day, but I remember a couple of 6 a.m. practices in there just to make sure we didn’t stay out too late the night before.”

And he was flexible. If he didn’t think a particular system was working, he would change it. That happened this year. Bowdoin began 1-4-1 so Meagher dropped the standard three-forward, two-defenseman system and went with a much more free-flowing system, one with two players up and three back, where roles weren’t as strictly defined, where players supported each other all over the ice.

The Polar Bears responded and had a 10-game unbeaten streak that ended abruptly in the NESCAC quarterfinals when Amherst scored six third-period goals to rally for an 8-5 win. “That was tough,” said Rubinoff. “I can’t imagine what it was like for him.”

If Meagher was disappointed, he hid it from his players. He looked at it as one last learning experience – for them and him.

“There were not too many things that I hadn’t seen on an ice rink, the way a puck bounces, things like that,” he said. “But the hockey gods said, “We’re going to give you one more thing to remember, something that you’ve never seen before.’ When it was over, I was more concerned with this team, how they were on a roll, how they all came together. This team was certainly a gift to this coach.”

That attitude – not gauging success strictly on wins and losses – made him a mentor for many other coaches in the athletic department. Meagher spoke of being fortunate to work with so many outstanding coaches, such as women’s basketball coach Adrienne Shibles and women’s hockey coach Marissa O’Neill, whose offices were to the left and right of his.

“To be around this department, to work with these people, maybe offer some advice, gave even more substance to my time here,” he said.

Shibles said Meagher, who teaches a fitness class at Bowdoin, would sometimes get on the court and play with her players. “He’s been a great resource for me to discuss issues with, to bounce ideas off,” she said. “He’s been an important mentor for me and for that I’m grateful.”

Meagher isn’t sure what’s next for him. He might stay in hockey, he might not. He might look outside of sports. Hockey has been part of his life for more than 55 years. “It opened the world up for me,” he said.

And now his world has opened up again.

“I’ve been reporting for duty to the same place for 33 years,” said Meagher. “I think I’ve got a little left in me so … what else do you want to do?”

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