Another former Shawn Walsh assistant is returning to Alfond Arena.

Jay Leach will join the staff of Dennis “Red” Gendron as associate head coach of the University of Maine men’s ice hockey program.

“Jay Leach is a master teacher,” Gendron said. “If you go back and talk to guys he’s coached, whether it’s at the college level or the pro level, they’ll tell you the passion with which he works is tremendous. I’ve seen that first hand.”

Earlier this month, Gendron hired Ben Guite, a former Black Bear who played 13 years of professional hockey, as an assistant coach.

Leach also has extensive experience in the pro ranks, having spent 15 seasons as an NHL assistant with Hartford, Atlanta, New Jersey and Washington and six as an AHL head coach with Springfield and Hershey. He grew up in Lexington, Mass., and played college hockey at the University of New Haven.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Leach, whose daughter, brother and parents are all Maine graduates. “It’s kind of a neat thing, to go back full circle.”

Leach, who spoke by phone from Atlanta, entered the coaching ranks in 1983 as an assistant at Merrimack College, a Division II school. He then spent four seasons as an assistant to Walsh in Orono, culminating with an NCAA semifinals appearance in 1988. He left Maine for a similar position with the NHL Hartford Whalers.

Gendron joined Walsh’s staff in Orono in 1990, but had already become acquainted with Leach through their college playing days (Gendron at New England College) and when Gendron worked summer hockey camps in Maine while a high school coach in Vermont.

They later worked together at USA Hockey and with the New Jersey Devils organization.

“Jay loves Maine the way I love Maine,” said Gendron, who became head coach in late May following the April firing of Tim Whitehead after 12 seasons in the position. “We both had significant roots to our careers as a result of coaching at Maine.”

Gendron said Leach will be on campus today and meetings are scheduled for Thursday to discuss recruiting and preseason planning.

“We have an awful lot to do,” Gendron said. “It won’t be a summer of playing golf and dipping our toes in the mighty Atlantic Ocean.”

• • •

Whitehead recently accepted the head coaching job at Kimball Union Academy, a prep school in Meriden, N.H., near the border with Vermont.

He opted against accepting a scouting or assistant coaching job in professional hockey that would have required significant travel.

“We felt for our family this was the right time to make this kind of move,” said Whitehead, whose wife Dena will pursue her teaching certificate and then begin teaching math at KUA a year from now.
Their daughter Natalie will enter ninth grade in the fall and son Zachary seventh. Whitehead’s sister’s family lives in Montreal and she has children of similar ages.

“That’s another plus,” Whitehead said. “Now they’re only three hours away instead of five hours.”Whitehead said he would also be working in development to help raise money for renovation or replacement of athletic facilities. Martin Ouellette, a rising senior and starting goaltender for Maine, is a KUA graduate.

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