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Much has been said and written about Dennis “Red” Gendron in the past few days, after the University of Maine men’s head ice hockey coach died unexpectedly Friday at the age of 63. There’s not a whole lot we can add about Gendron’s impact and this terrible loss that others haven’t already shared with eloquence and emotion, and we’ll highlight some of those comments below. But we want to start with something Gendron himself said a few months ago.
“When you have an attitude of gratitude about everything that you do, and you stay focused on that, that creates the positive vibes all of us know gives us the best opportunity to be successful,” Gendron said in January, according to WABI. “So be grateful for what you have.”
That perspective and approach matches the thoughtfulness and compassion described by so many who knew Gendron well.
“He was great for college hockey, he was a big loving personality that when he walked in a room the energy just went to him,” Greg Carvel, the head men’s hockey coach at the University of Massachusetts, said at a Friday press conference. “He cared about people, he treated people really well, and he will be missed. He was a good friend to me and he’ll be missed.”
UMass, where Gendron was an assistant coach from 2005-11, won the national championship this weekend.
Gendron was on several championship coaching staffs at the collegiate and professional levels, including as an assistant coach during Maine’s 1993 title run. He was named the Hockey East coach of the year in 2020. But it was his passion for the game and those around him, rather than wins and losses or awards, that stood out to us among the remembrances offered these past few days.
“This stopped me in my tracks,” said NESN sportscaster Tom Caron in reaction to the news of Gendron’s death. “One of the most caring coaches I have ever met. Red loved life, loved hockey, loved his players and his community. He will leave a huge void and we will miss him terribly.”
Gendron’s fellow UMaine coaches also reacted to the tragic news.
“Coach Gendron always reached out. He was always there to listen,” Amy Vachon, the head UMaine women’s basketball coach, said on Twitter. “This is the last text I received from him — the morning after our loss in the championship… he was always thinking of others. I will miss him. Maine will miss him.”
Here is that text Gendron sent to Vachon: “Hi Coach. I think I understand how you and everyone in your program is feeling today. Your season was remarkable; the job you all did equally remarkable. You are one of the best coaches I know, anywhere, period!”
Former UMaine defenseman Brady Keeper, now playing in the Florida Panthers organization, called Gendron one of the “nicest men” he knew and one of “the better coaches I’ve ever played for.” Black Bear Sports Network radio play-by-play announcer Jon Shields said Gendron was “a very nice man” who “had a way of making me feel good about the job I was doing.”
Richard Barron, the UMaine men’s head basketball coach, had some particularly moving words about his colleague and friend.
“Our good friend left us today. I had no idea I wouldn’t see him again. I assumed we had many more stories to share and so much more we could learn from each other,” Barron said. “The news of his passing is painful. Love on your family. Love on your friends. Life is short. I miss U Red.”
Life is short, and things can change in an instant. The clock runs out for all of us at some point. If we’re lucky, we’ve managed to have the kind of impact that Red Gendron did. His was a winning attitude of gratitude. We should all aim to be grateful for what we have, and the time we have it.