By Sam Laskaris
More than two decades after he first joined the Maine Black Bears, Alfie Michaud is still a key contributor for the men’s university hockey team.
Michaud, who is Ojibwe, became a member of the NCAA Division 1 squad back in 1996 when he was a 19-year-old goaltender.
Michaud, who was born in Selkirk, Man., spent three seasons with the Black Bears, who play their home contests in the Maine town of Orono.
He then embarked on a pro career, which included a brief stint with the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks.
Michaud, a member of Manitoba’s Berens River First Nation (where his mother is from), also toiled for seven minor pro franchises in North America and for various other clubs in Finland, Germany and Denmark during his playing days.
During the past two years, Michaud served as the volunteer goalie coach with the Black Bears.
Michaud, 41, is now on the bench with the team this season as he was hired to be an assistant coach for the Maine club.
“Outside of playing hockey, there’s nothing really I’d rather be doing,” Michaud said of his coaching gig with the Black Bears, one of 11 clubs that participate in the NCAA’s Hockey East conference.
During its history Maine has won two national championships, in 1993 and ’99. But the program has struggled in recent seasons.
A year ago the Black Bears posted a 5-15-2 conference record. And the last time the team had a record over .500 was during the 2013-14 campaign.
Michaud, however, is thrilled to be working at his alma mater now.
“It means a lot to me to be given this opportunity and to try and build this program back up,” he said.
Maine is currently sporting a 4-4-1 record this season, good for seventh spot in the conference standings. But the Black Bears could potentially move up a few positions in the standings as all those squads ahead of them have played more games.
For example, Boston University (6-6-1) and Connecticut (5-7-1), which are occupying third and sixth place in the standings, have both played 13 contests apiece, four more than the Black Bears entering the Christmas holidays.
Maine returns to action with a pair of road games on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, N.Y. These will be a pair of non-conference matches since RPI competes in the ECAC Hockey conference (formerly the Eastern College Athletic Conference).
The Black Bears return to conference play on Jan. 6, with a road tilt versus Boston University.
Michaud has fond memories of his own playing days at Maine.
“This program changed my life,” he said. “And it set me up well for my life after my playing days.”
Plus now Michaud has caught the coaching bug.
“It’s something I’m fiercely passionate about,” he said. “And it’s something I want to do.”
After three years of playing at Maine, Michaud joined the pro ranks during the 1999-2000 season.
During his first year as a pro he appeared in two games with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. As it turned out those were the only two NHL matches he ever played.
After his own playing days ended in 2014, Michaud signed on with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes to work as a developmental coach with its American Hockey League affiliate, the Maine-based Portland Pirates. But that job only lasted for a year as the Pirates relocated to Massachusetts in 2015.
“The team moved to Springfield and I didn’t go with them,” said Michaud, who was not keen to move.
He lives in Vienna, Maine. Michaud is married and he has three daughters, ages 12, 9 and 6.
As of now, Michaud’s middle daughter is the only one playing hockey. His eldest daughter is a figure skater while the youngest is a ballet dancer.
Michaud is also currently juggling a couple of other jobs. He’s got his own business of running goalie camps called Dream Catcher’s Hockey.
Plus the past few years he’s provided goaltending tips and other hockey advice to those at Shoot To Score camps, run by former NHLer Jamie Leach and assisted by his father Reggie, also a former NHLer.
Though he was listed as a volunteer goalie coach for Maine last year, Michaud said he was much more than that.
“Last year they wanted my input on everything and not just the goalies,” he said.
Now that he’s officially a paid assistant coach, Michaud has even more input, plus he gets to go on recruiting visits on behalf of the squad.
“I have a say on who we want to bring into the program,” he said. “I’m very excited about the opportunity. I’m very grateful to (head coach) Red (Gendron) and the university.”