Jay Leach, the University of Maine’s associate head men’s hockey coach, is leaving the university after four seasons.
The 65-year-old Leach verified that he is leaving on Monday but preferred to wait until Tuesday to explain his reasons for his departure.
It was Leach’s second four-year stint as an assistant coach at UMaine.
He first came to UMaine in 1984 and helped new head coach Shawn Walsh transform the program from a cellar-dweller into a national power.
After two losing seasons, the Black Bears earned their first ever NCAA Tournament berth in 1986-87 and they followed that up with an initial appearance in the Frozen Four the following year.
When Red Gendron was hired to replace Tim Whitehead four years ago, he hired Leach and former UMaine player Ben Guite as his assistants.
The Black Bears haven’t been able to match the success of the Walsh era, going 49-82-17 over the past four seasons. Six of UMaine’s top nine scorers off this past year’s 11-21-4 team were freshmen and sophomores.
When asked if Leach left on his own terms or was asked to leave, Gendron said Leach “resigned.”
“I’m leaving on good terms,” Leach said via text message.
“Jay did a great job recruiting, mentoring and coaching our young players,” said Gendron. “A lot have gone on to become highly successful people and, in many cases, highly successful hockey players.
“The University of Maine holds a debt of gratitude to coach Leach for his service,” added Gendron.
Gendron, Leach and Guite coached center Devin Shore and defenseman Ben Hutton for two seasons and both are regulars in the NHL for Dallas and Vancouver, respectively. And three-year UMaine defenseman Dan Renouf made his debut with the Red Wings this season.
Leach earned $91,800 per year and Gendron said he doesn’t have “any immediate plans” pertaining to who will replace him. Former UMaine goalie Alfie Michaud was the first-year volunteer goaltending coach this past season and could be a candidate to become a full-time paid assistant.
Leach, a Lexington, Massachusetts native who played his college hockey at the University of New Haven, left UMaine after the 1987-88 season to become an assistant with the NHL’s Hartford Whalers. He would later serve as an NHL assistant with Los Angeles, Atlanta, New Jersey and Washington.
He was also a head coach in the American Hockey League, guiding Springfield and Hershey to divisional championships and Springfield to the Calder Cup finals.
He was a five-time assistant coach for Team USA at the World Championships and served as a mentor and a coach with the Thunder AAA Hockey Club in Alabama prior to coming to UMaine four years ago.
“Jay was a big mentor to me,” said Guite. “Not too many people know the game as well as Jay does. He was great to be around. He made you feel special.”
Guite added that Leach is a “good person” with a “big heart” and he knew how to deal with people.