Jim Montgomery knows he will be closely scrutinized as the head coach of the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins.
There is a lot of pressure in the sports-crazed city.
But the former University of Maine All-American, who captained the Black Bears to their first NCAA championship in 1993, said he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I went to the University of Maine because it was the number one show in town,” said the 53-year-old Montreal native. “We were expected to win a national championship. That’s what I wanted from day one and what I still want.”
Only now his sights are on winning the Stanley Cup, something the Bruins have managed to accomplish just once since 1972. Montgomery was officially named the next head coach of the Bruins on July 1, after being an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues for the past two seasons and the head coach of the Dallas Stars prior to that.
“That’s what the Bruins want and I want to be a part of that vision and those expectations from the fans and the organization,” Montgomery said.
“The more you are scrutinized, the more responsibility you have and that opportunity excited me. The people care so much. I like that.”
Montgomery, UMaine’s all-time leading scorer with 301 points, said there is pressure everywhere in life.
“You have to embrace it. If you are willing to work and be prepared, good things will happen.”
He said one of his strengths is his ability to communicate, and he learned that from late former UMaine head coach Shawn Walsh and assistant Grant Standbrook.
“Shawn Walsh focused on the positives. He focused on what you could do and not on what you couldn’t do. You have to let your players know how they will be able to help the team win,” Montgomery said. “From Grant I learned it is more important to listen than to talk.”
Montgomery spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach under Craig Berube with the St. Louis Blues.
He had been the head coach of the Dallas Stars but was fired due to improper behavior stemming from his alcoholism.
He went into rehab and is now 2 1/2 years sober.
Montgomery said his family and friends played critical roles in his sobriety through their support and honesty.
“I started to look at my history and it was clear I was no longer the person I knew. I needed to change,” he said. “[Alcohol] could no longer be part of my life if I was going to be successful and be the person I wanted to be on a daily basis.”
Montgomery, who has four children with wife Emily, feels “honored and humbled” to be coaching one of the NHL’s Original Six teams.
“It’s special to be a part of something that stands for tradition and legacy. You think of all the great players who have worn a Bruins uniform and the success the organization has had,” Montgomery said.
“At Maine, we couldn’t win Hockey East until we triumphed over the city of Boston because of Boston College and Boston University. It’s great to be a part of a great hockey city like Boston.”
Montgomery said he was thankful to the Blues for giving him the opportunity to get back into coaching and he said he learned a lot from Berube.
The Bruins made the playoffs last season but were eliminated in the first round by the Carolina Hurricanes.
“The Bruins accomplished a lot last year,” Montgomery said. “We have to maintain our success and improve. We have to be hard to play against defensively, while getting more offense from everyone, especially the third and fourth lines and the defense corps.”
He said he has been “very lucky” because he is walking into a Bruins dressing room that is full of leaders like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy.
Montgomery has been a winner wherever he has been.
The Stars made the playoffs for the first time in three years in his first season behind the bench.
He coached the University of Denver to five NCAA Tournament berths in five years and an NCAA title.
He had taken over a first-year franchise in the United States Hockey League and led Dubuque to two titles in three seasons.
The UMaine Sports Hall of Famer said it is going to be nice to be back in the Northeast.
“It is a homecoming. There are a number of former Black Bear teammates and alums around as well as college alums who weren’t involved in hockey. It’s amazing how many friends I will be around again,” he said.
“I’m excited to be back. It’s very nostalgic for me.”