Colby College men’s hockey assistant coach Tyler Walsh, right, puts his arm around his brother, Sean, a Bowdoin College assistant coach, prior to their game Saturday night in Waterville. Photo provided by Tyler Walsh

WATERVILLE — Less than an hour after the Colby men’s hockey team finished off rival Bowdoin on Saturday night, brothers Sean and Tyler Walsh embraced at center ice.

Tyler Walsh, a Colby assistant coach, was again reunited with Sean, an assistant coach at Bowdoin.

Their late father, Shawn Walsh, was a fierce competitor. Now the brothers are competing against one another in the nation’s oldest small college hockey rivalry.

Shawn Walsh built the University of Maine men’s hockey program from the ground up and led it to a pair of NCAA championships, in 1993 and 1999. He died in 2001 after a brief battle with kidney cancer. His work brought college hockey to the forefront of the state’s winter sports landscape.

“We’re very lucky with the legacy he left,” said Sean Walsh, 23, after the Polar Bears dropped a 4-2 decision at Kelley Rink. “A lot of kids that were my age when they have a parent pass away, they’re not left with much. But we’ve got the path he paved for us.”

Colby’s victory Saturday night in the 210th installment of the series came with the Walsh brothers coaching against each other for the first time.


“It’s funny, because last year Sean joined (University of New England) in the second half of the year,” Tyler said. “I was an open book with him because he’d been out of state and it was his first college job, so I tried to help him out. He had no contacts or any background on anybody.

Colby College assistant coach Tyler Walsh, left, waits for a game against Bowdoin to start on Saturday night in Waterville. At right is coach Pertti Hasanen. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“When he got the job at Bowdoin this summer, he called and asked if I had that spreadsheet with all of my contacts on it. I told him, ‘Sorry, buddy. Times have changed. You’re on your own now.’”

Tyler Walsh, 32, previously coached North Yarmouth Academy and then was an assistant coach at the United States Hockey National Team Development program.

He came to Colby as an assistant coach in 2018, with the Mules coming off their first NCAA Division III Frozen Four appearance.

Colby Coach Blaise MacDonald noted Walsh heavily influenced the program’s first New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) regular season title in 2021-22, as well as its 5-0-0 start this season.

“His real strength is recruiting,” MacDonald said. “He’s done a really tremendous job of identifying the proper kids who would be successful in this environment.”


Walsh also runs the Colby penalty kill, which at a 95.7 success percentage this season is tied for the top spot in Division III.

“There’s prescouting in there, teaching that goes into that, technical play that goes into that,” MacDonald said. “(Tyler’s) fingerprints are all over that.”

Bowdoin College men’s hockey assistant coach Sean Walsh, left, looks out onto the ice prior a game against Colby on Saturday night in Waterville. At right is Bowdoin head coach Ben Guite. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Tyler Walsh credits former University of Maine head coach Tim Whitehead – who was Shawn Walsh’s successor at UMaine – with steering him toward coaching.

Walsh had been a student at Michigan State working as a team manager when Whitehead called and asked if he would be interested in transferring to Maine.

“I talked to my mom, and within 48 hours I made the decision I was going to Maine,” Walsh said.

“Tim really made me want to be a coach, just from being able to see it all and what goes on behind closed doors.”


Tyler Walsh looks almost identical to his father at the same age, but his personality is more measured. He’s a more of a tactician, a dogged worker behind the scenes.

Sean Walsh may not look like his father, but he acts almost exactly like him.

“I’m pretty laid back in noncompetitive arenas,” said first-year Bowdoin coach Ben Guite, who played for Shawn Walsh on UMaine’s 1999 national championship team.

“Sean, though, he’s a bit more like Shawn – he’s fiery and has great charisma. His personality, his ability to talk to people, things like that. He’s a little bit of a chip off the old block.”

Sean Walsh spent four years at Maine as a student volunteer assistant coach, handling video and statistics under Red Gendron.

Gendron, who died unexpectedly in 2021, also coached with Shawn Walsh at Maine in the early 1990s.


“He did a lot with us, and he was probably there too much, if you ask me,” said Guite, who was an assistant on Gendron’s staff. “I mean, he was the student assistant and he was there as often as Red, Alfie (Michaud) and myself were.”

Maine hockey coach Shawn Walsh watches his team play from the bench during a 2000 game against Boston College in Orono. AP file photo

“I guess I did put all my eggs in one basket,” added Sean Walsh, who was barely a toddler when his father passed away. “I knew by middle school, high school age that I wanted to go into coaching.”

After his time as a student at Maine, Sean Walsh was hired as an assistant coach with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, the top junior league in the United States.

Walsh’s brief tenure there was caught in the crossfire of a bitter controversy in which the team’s owner was eventually dismissed by the league for violating several league rules.

Walsh returned to Maine last year and joined the staff at UNE led by former UMaine player Kevin Swallow.

When Guite was hired at Bowdoin, Walsh was one of the first people he considered for the position.


“It makes me work a hell of a lot harder, that’s the first thing I’ve noticed,” Tyler Walsh, 32, said of his brother joining the staff of Colby’s fiercest and oldest rival.

“Recruiting. Tactically. All of it. You want to win the game.”

Even still, the brothers – along with their middle sibling Travis Walsh – remain close.

The three of them talk nearly every day, Sean said.

Travis Walsh played collegiately at Michigan State University and several years in the minor leagues in North America and Europe, but he chose sports medicine over coaching as a profession once his playing days were over.

“I try and just be myself and do things my way,” Sean said of comparison to his father’s career path. “But at the end of the day, you can’t change your DNA.”

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