ORONO, Maine — Tom Bausher is a University of Maine graduate and Shawn Swavely’s father-in-law.
And when Bausher discovered that Swavely’s nephews, Jon and Steven Swavely, were hockey players, he sent them a University of Maine hockey jersey. Jon Swavely hung it in his bedroom.
Several years later, Jon Swavely thought back to that jersey after UMaine hockey assistant Dan Kerluke had offered him a scholarship.
“I knew Maine was where I was meant to be,” said Jon Swavely.
“It was almost like fate,” said Susan Swavely, Jon and Steven Swavely’s mother.
Winger Jon Swavely had a solid four-year career and wound up playing his last two years with his younger brother Steven Swavely. They even spent time as linemates.
Steven Swavely, a center, is the captain of the Black Bears, and when he graduates this spring, it will end a six-year relationship between the Swavely family and the university.
Gary Swavely Jr., his wife, Susan Swavely, and 20-year-old daughter, Lauren Swavely, have spent the last six years attending as many of Jon and Steven Swavely’s games as possible. There have been many flights from their Reading, Pennsylvania, home to Bangor and some long drives from Reading to the road rinks visited by the Black Bears.
“It has been awesome,” said Susan Swavely. “When Jon decided to go to Maine, my husband and I decided we were going to do everything we could to see as many games as possible.”
A family atmosphere
It didn’t take long for the Swavelys to realize their sons had chosen a special school and a unique rink.
“It has been the greatest experience of my life,” said Gary Swavely. “Number one, we’ve gotten to see our kids play Division I hockey together. Number two, they played for a storied program. That is unbelievable. The loyal fans, the students, the pep band. It is the most energized and best hockey venue in the country.”
“There is a whole family atmosphere up there,” said Susan Swavely. “It has been very special. We were accepted and very welcomed. People wanted to get to know you in a nice way.”
“We’re going to miss it sorely, that’s for sure,” said Gary Swavely.
“It’s very sad,” added Susan Swavely, who has sung the national anthem at Alfond Arena on several occasions.
She used to sing a duet with Andrea Shore, mother of former Black Bear captain Devin Shore, but she sang it solo this season on Seniors Night two weekends ago since Shore left to begin his pro hockey career.
“She has a special voice. It gives me the chills hearing her sing the anthem while I was standing on the blue line,” said Steven Swavely.
Susan Swavely also has helped establish home-cooked Thanksgiving dinners for the players at the social hall affiliated with the Parish of the Resurrection in Old Town.
The family has developed a relationship with Father Bill Labbe, who is the Catholic chaplain at the Newman Center on the campus. The center is affiliated with the Parish of the Resurrection.
“It also gave the parents of the freshmen a chance to know the upperclass parents,” said Susan Swavely. “I’ll miss that, too.”
“The whole Swavely family has been a blessing,” said UMaine hockey coach Red Gendron. “The brothers have been exceptional players, and the family has been selfless. We’re going to miss the entire family when Steven graduates.”
Leading by example
Jon and Steven Swavely started playing hockey when they were “6 or 7,” according to Steven Swavely.
“Jon paved the way for me in hockey,” he said. “He did all the dirty work. He played juniors in Sioux City, [Iowa], Alexandria, [Minnesota], and back to the Jersey Hitmen. He played all over the place. Once he committed to Maine, it opened my eyes. I thought, ‘Wow, this can be done.’”
Ever since he saw his first game at Alfond Arena, Steven Swavely wanted to play there. He also wanted to play with his brother.
UMaine was one of just two schools that recruited him. UMass was the other.
And when it became a reality, Steven Swavely scored a goal just 3:41 into his first game off an assist from his brother. It came in a 2-1 loss to Quinnipiac.
“That was the highlight of my career, for sure,” said Jon Swavely.
Jon Swavely didn’t score much, registering seven goals and 15 assists in 118 career games, but he was valuable as a tenacious, hard-nosed winger.
Steven Swavely, who, at 6-foot-3, 191 pounds, is 6 inches taller and 16 pounds heavier than his older brother, has been among the team’s top five point-producers all four seasons. Like his brother, he is a gritty player and a fierce competitor.
He has 33 goals and 48 assists in 144 career games. He is third on the team in points with 19 on nine goals and 10 assists in 36 games.
“He’s one of the best defensive forwards in the league, and he also has some offensive flair,” said Merrimack coach Mark Dennehy. “He’s tough on faceoffs, he’s big and strong, and he can lean on you. I really respect his game. He plays a full 200-foot game.”
His coach and teammates consider him an exceptional leader.
“He leads by example. He shows you the right way to be a Maine Black Bear,” said freshman defenseman Rob Michel. “And he’s always there for you, on and off the ice.”
Junior center Cam Brown said Steven Swavely has “done a ton for the program. He works his butt off. He and Jon have been great role models.”
Steven Swavely said he has been happy with his career but said, “I wish our record was better.”
He and his 11th seeded Black Bears (8-22-6 overall, 5-15-2 in Hockey East) will take on sixth seed Northeastern (16-13-5, 10-8-4) in their best-of-three first round series beginning Friday night in Boston.
Steven Swavely considers it a “real honor” to be the captain but said it has been a “difficult” year.
“But the biggest thing for me is how well our team has handled it. Nobody has been pouting or sulking. I haven’t had to go and lift their spirits,” he said. “We always talk about staying positive, and they have done that. We’re playing a game we love, and we’re lucky to be here. I can’t say enough about my teammates.
“This is the best rink in college hockey. I get chills when I hear the pep band as we step on the ice. It never gets old. I’ll miss it,” he said.