UMaine’s club hockey team will be back in action in less than a month. The team is coming off a dismal 1-18-1 season but is expecting a complete turnaround this year.
One player on the team who is focused on righting the ship is junior defenseman Ben Gagnon. Gagnon lives and breathes hockey and has ever since he was a kid.
“I started playing hockey when I was 5 years old. I constantly skated on my pond until I could enroll in youth programs,” Gagnon said.
Gagnon’s oldest brother, a hockey standout himself, helped him become interested in the sport he loves today.
“My brother Shaun and my parents got me into hockey. I watched Shaun in all his different hockey programs so I quickly started liking the game. I was constantly surrounded by the game and would skate on my pond with my brother and his teammates,” Gagnon said.
Besides his family, Gagnon attributes his passion for the game to one former professional player in particular.
“Mario Lemieux has always inspired me,” Gagnon said.
“He not only was a great player but also had struggles during his career, like Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Being able to overcome health problems and still be successful is very inspiring. I also think his accomplishments off the ice — like being a co-owner for the Pittsburgh Penguins — is incredible too,” Gagnon continued.
Gagnon didn’t always skate on his pond, however. With his family’s support and a hero in Lemieux to look up to, he made all-conference all four years at Sanford High School in southern Maine.
He also earned all-academic honors as a senior and served as the teams captain for two years, proving he was just as dedicated in the classroom as he was on the ice.
His work in the classroom hasn’t slowed down since college either. Gagnon is a double major in biology and education at the university.
However, he still makes plenty of time for the club hockey team and serves as the team’s vice president.
“This year our team will have a lot of talent. We have many returning players as well as new individuals who will have a positive impact on the team,” Gagnon said.
Another concern for the team has been the scheduling conflicts. Gagnon has worked hard with the team’s president, Brett Radosti, to makes sure this year’s schedule and traveling don’t wear on the team like they did last year.
“We have a lengthy season with approximately 25 games, so during these months, I think we are going to strive for a successful season. And cutting down on the travel will also help us out this year too,” Gagnon said.
This year’s club hockey team is also adamant that it can and will make the playoffs this season and, at the very least, post a winning record.
“I think both my individual goals and the goals for the team is the same — make playoffs.” Gagnon said.
Gagnon has been on the team his previous two years at the school and has been a very productive defenseman.
He’s at every dry land and optional practice. Hopefully the team will follow in his footsteps and show the same dedication he has shown over the years.
Although he’s mostly known for his physical play, Gagnon posted two goals last year and won’t hesitate to pull the trigger this season. However, the most important thing in Gagnon’s mind is his defensive play.
When Gagnon’s college hockey career is over he doesn’t plan to slow down, by any means.
“After college I hope to become a high school biology teacher. And if things fall into place I’d like to become a hockey coach at the high school level as well,” Gagnon said.
“I definitely see myself coaching at some level of play or at least being involved with my future children’s desire for the game at some point,” he added.
You can see Gagnon and the entire club hockey team at their first home game at Harold Alfond Ice Arena on Oct. 20 against Southern New Hampshire University.