Maine fired coach Tim Whitehead on Tuesday after 12 seasons and with one year remaining on the four-year extension he signed in 2010.
“This is about the future of our marquee program,” said Maine director of athletics Steve Abbott in a press release. “Since 2008, UMaine has experienced declining Hockey East success, season ticket sales and overall ticket revenues and waning student engagement in men’s ice hockey. The president and I are committed to ensuring that our men’s hockey program is financially sustainable, continues to focus on developing the student-athlete and is known nationally for excellence.”
Whitehead took over the program following the death of Shawn Walsh in 2001 and went 154-69-26 in his first six seasons, but just 96-102-28 over the past six.
This past season, the Black Bears were 2-9-6 at Alfond Arena after averaging 12.2 home wins per season in their previous 11 years. Maine went 9-8-6 over its final 23 games, including a sweep at Boston College and a win and a tie at New Hampshire – two places Maine hadn’t won since 2005.
Maine finished 11-19-8 (7-12-8 Hockey East) last season and was swept by Massachusetts-Lowell in the conference quarterfinals. The Black Bears’ season was also marred by injuries as only five players appeared in all 38 games.
Whitehead guided Maine to two Frozen Four championship games, losing in 2002 to Minnesota and in 2004 to Denver.
“It has been an honor to serve as the head coach of the men’s hockey team at the University of Maine for the past 12 years,” Whitehead said in a statement. “My family and I feel blessed to have been part of the Maine hockey family and we will always cherish the relationships we have built, both at the university and in the Bangor community.
“The Maine hockey fans are the best in the country and they have a lot to look forward to for next season and beyond. I love our returning core of players and our incoming recruits. I’m confident this team will build on our strong second half this season and that they will compete among the top programs in the nation next year.”
A search committee is being created to find Whitehead’s replacement.
Following is the full text of the statement released by Whitehead on Tuesday:
It has been an honor to serve as the Head Coach of the Men’s Hockey Team at the University of Maine for the past 12 years. My family and I feel blessed to have been part of the Maine Hockey family, and we will always cherish the relationships we have built, both at the University and in the Bangor Community.
I have been fortunate to be surrounded with great players, coaches and staff during my time at Maine. We have fought through a lot of adversity together, but we have always embraced those challenges head on. The mutual respect of our players, coaches, and staff is what matters most to me, and I am proud of what we have accomplished together, both on and off the ice.
Competing in 7 NCAA Tournaments, 4 Frozen Fours, and 2 National Championship games were certainly highlights for us, along with our 2004 Hockey East Championship and our 2012 Frozen Fenway victory.
Off the ice, we worked hard to establish a culture of academic excellence and social responsibility that we can all be proud of. In addition, we completed the fundraising and construction of the $3.75 million Shawn Walsh Hockey Center in 2005 and the $4.85 million Alfond Arena Renovation Project in 2012.
The Maine hockey fans are the best in the country, and they have a lot to look forward to for next season and beyond. I love our returning core of players and our incoming recruits. I’m confident this team will build on our strong 2nd half this season, and that they will compete among the top programs in the nation next year.