Dennis “Red” Gendron was a topnotch assistant coach at the University of Maine during an unforgettable season: 1992-93.
That was the first of Maine’s two NCAA championships.
He went on to spend 11 years in the New Jersey Devils organization, during which time the Devils won three Stanley Cups.
Now he’s back in the college game as a first-year assistant coach at UMass.
“That was a wonderful experience,” said Gendron, referring to Maine’s 42-1-2 campaign in 1992-93. “I’ll never forget landing in Bangor, getting on the bus for the eight miles or so to Orono, and seeing people on the overpasses and along the side of the highway with [championship] signs. Then we walked into the Alfond Arena with all of those people.”
“It was magnificent. What a feeling,” recalled Gendron, who spent three seasons at Maine.
What surprised him is the fact only three players off that team, Hobey Baker Award-winning left winger Paul Kariya and goalies Mike Dunham and Garth Snow, have had long-term NHL careers. Several others like Patrice Tardif, the Ferraro twins (Chris and Peter), Jim Montgomery, and Matt Martin played in the NHL but didn’t have prolonged NHL careers.
“That’s remarkable. I thought virtually all of our guys would be regulars in the National Hockey League,” said Gendron. “That spring, I went to the World Championships and I was at ice level watching the U.S. team. They had guys like Tony Amonte, Michael Modano, and Eric Weinrich. After watching the pace they were practicing at, I said, ‘Wow there’s a big, big difference.'”
He enjoyed his stint with the Devils, serving as an assistant, a scout, and the head coach of their AHL Albany River Rats.
He coached former Bear star Steve Kariya in Albany.
“He was a terrific player for me and he was a consummate pro. More importantly, he was a great human being. That’s more important than anything else,” said Gendron.
Gendron was eventually fired as the head coach at Albany and, last year, he was the head coach of the Indiana Ice of the prestigious United States Junior Hockey League which has produced hundreds of Division I players.
“It’s probably the best league for college coaches to recruit in. That league has a great reputation for producing kids who are successful right away as freshmen [in college],” said Gendron.
Gendron likes the college hockey environment.
“Because they play fewer games in college, you rarely see a college game devoid of intensity. There’s always a maximum amount of intensity in a college game,” said Gendron.
He also favors the idea of student-athletes “doing a couple different things.”
“They certainly want to develop into pro hockey players one day, but they also need to work on their education in case, God forbid, they can’t become NHL millionaires, which most of them won’t,” said Gendron.
Gendron said he learned an “enormous amount” from the late Shawn Walsh at Maine and is having a good time with long-time friend Don Cahoon, the head coach at UMass.
“Our kids work their tails off and they’re attentive. They want to succeed. When you come to work every day and have willing students, it makes it fun. It’s all about winning. We all know that. But the process of getting to that point is something you can enjoy and I’m enjoying it here,”
said the 47-year-old Gendron.
Larry Mahoney can be reached at 990-8231, 1-800-310-8600 or by email at email@example.com.