ORONO, Maine — Dennis “Red” Gendron, who has won two NCAA hockey championships as an assistant coach and has three NHL Stanley Cup rings for his time as an assistant in the New Jersey Devils organization, has signed a contract to become the University of Maine’s next men’s hockey coach.

UMaine President Paul Ferguson and Director of Athletics Steve Abbott made the announcement in a press release Monday.

The 55-year-old Gendron, a native of Berlin, N.H., put his name on a four-year contract that will pay him $205,000 per year, according to Abbott.

He is the fifth head coach in the history of the UMaine program following Jack Semler, the late Shawn Walsh, Greg Cronin and Tim Whitehead, who was released from his contract April 9 with one year remaining on it. Cronin served as an interim coach for a year when Walsh was suspended for NCAA violations during the 1995-96 season.

Whitehead will receive the $195,000 owed him for the final year of his contract with the money coming out of the president’s privately-funded discretionary fund.

Abbott said he felt the $10,000 increase for Gendron was warranted.

“We felt it was the right salary for the job. For Maine, it’s a big salary. But it’s a big job,” explained Abbott.

Gendron’s first college hockey coaching experience was with the Black Bears, where he assisted Walsh for three seasons culminating with 1993 NCAA Division I championship as the Black Bears went 42-1-2.

Associate head coach Bob Corkum has been serving as UMaine’s interim head coach since April 10.

Abbott said Gendron will pick his own assistants but Gendron indicated to him that he will talk to Corkum and fellow associate head coach Dan Kerluke.

“We’re very happy to have Red as our new coach. He brings a breath of fresh air to the program,” said Abbott. “He has a great attitude toward hockey and will heighten the competitive level and the passion of the program.

“He has been successful at all levels and I expect us to compete for championships in Hockey East and at the national level,” said Abbott. “Red has the background, enthusiasm and knowledge to get us there.”

Abbott said one of the traits that stood out was Gendron’s “love for Maine hockey.

“He has had a tremendous career and Orono is where it all took off,” said Abbott.

“All of the wonderful things that have happened to us since that time would not have been possible if not for the University of Maine, Shawn Walsh, (assistant) Grant Standbrook and all of the champion players and coaches who were part of our first Maine experience,” Gendron said in a press release. “The energy and passion within and surrounding this program are inspiring and have not diminished in my absence.”

Abbott said in addition to Gendron’s passion for the program, “I also loved his approach to the game. He has great intensity, but he also sees the sport as being a lot of fun. The players will respond to that. They will be inspired. He has a track record as a winner. He runs a very focused, competitive practice, and we will play an aggressive style of hockey.”

Abbott said he is banking on Gendron’s “engaging presence” and attractive brand of hockey to put people back in the seats at Alfond Arena.

Maine has lost 1,700 season ticket-holders over the past five seasons and the Bears’ attendance this past season was the lowest since the 1991-92 season. Maine, which went 11-19-8 (7-12-8 in Hockey East) and finished eighth in the league before being swept in the quarterfinals by UMass Lowell, averaged 4,175 per game.

After guiding Maine to six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including four Frozen Fours and two NCAA title game appearances, Whitehead’s last six years produced just one NCAA Tournament berth.

Maine has gone 96-102-28 the past six seasons (65-74-23 Hockey East) after going 154-69-26 (89-42-19 HE) in Whitehead’s first six years.

Ferguson said in a press release that “Our primary goal in this search was to find an individual who could bring the best balance to our men’s hockey program as a nationally competitive team on the ice and support our student-athletes’ preparation for the future based upon solid academic foundations.

“We are so pleased to have found that individual in Red Gendron, who personifies that balance. His personal passion for the Black Bears and UMaine is extraordinary and will no doubt unite the Black Bear Nation,” added Ferguson.

Abbott received names of recommended candidates from a seven-member search committee chaired by Dr. George Jacobson, professor emeritus of biology, ecology and climate change, and the university’s former NCAA faculty athletic representative. Abbott forwarded the recommendation to Ferguson for a final decision.

The other finalists weren’t listed but they were believed to be former Black Bear goalie, Colby College head coach and current University of New Hampshire assistant Jim Tortorella, Corkum and former University of Wisconsin assistant and recently deposed Ohio State head coach Mark Osiecki.

“We had some great applicants who are tremendous coaches,” said Abbott.

“The final group included several coaches who could have filled the role with distinction,” said Jacobson in a press release. “Coach Gendron has excellent understanding of leadership and motivation. He is highly intelligent, well-educated and articulate. And he knows the game of ice hockey at the highest level.”

In his 34-year coaching career, Gendron has worked with championship teams at all levels.

At Bellows Free Academy in Vermont, he guided squads to four state championships in the 1980s and was a two-time Vermont coach of the year.

He was an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils when they captured the Stanley Cup in 1995, and was an assistant and head coach, respectively, with their AHL team in Albany when the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 2000 and 2003.

He spent one season as the head coach of the Indiana Ice in the United States (Junior A-amateur) Hockey League before moving on to UMass where he assisted Don Cahoon for six seasons.

The last two seasons, Gendron was associate head coach at Yale University, and the Bulldogs earned the school’s first NCAA title last month.

In the past three weeks, Jacobson says the search committee met with candidates in person and talked by phone, and reached out to others in college and professional hockey circles to identify and evaluate finalists for the position.

Gendron knows he will be under the microscope at Maine.

“I am fully aware of what this program means to our current players, our alumni, the university and to our fans throughout the state, and I am equally aware of the championship-caliber results they demand from their Black Bears,” he said in the release.

Gendron earned a master’s degree in education from UMaine in 1993. USA Hockey uses Gendron’s book, “Coaching Hockey Successfully,” as the advanced-level manual for its coaching education program.

Gendron is fluent in French and speaks some Russian. He graduated in 1979 from New England College in Henniker, N.H, where he was a three-year hockey captain.

He and his wife, Janet, have two daughters, Katelyn and Allison.

Gendron will be introduced in a press conference at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Alfond Arena. He will speak to the media and be available for individual interviews following the official news conference. He will also be available to greet fans in the Alfond Family Lounge after the press conference.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Gendron will be at Season’s Grille, located at 427 Main Street in Bangor, to meet fans. Some members of the team will also be present.