Friday, April 9 was opening day at the Penobscot Valley Country Club in Orono.. I arrived at the country club at 12:30 p.m. and was looking to tee off despite not having a tee time. I was told that I could take the 12:40 tee time because the group scheduled for that time slot had cancelled. I rushed to the first tee box, put my tee in the ground, placed my ball on the tee and stepped back. I stretched for a minute, and started to walk up to my ball to take my first shot of 2021.
As I approached my ball I heard someone yell in the distance, “Does anyone know CPR?” I stopped approaching my ball, looked up and saw golfers on the course from various holes all run and gather on the third hole. Moments later police and paramedics arrived at the scene. An ambulance drove down the golf course to the crowd of people. I stood on the tee box for around 30 minutes observing the crowd — I had no idea what was going on or who the paramedics were attending to.
I ended up standing behind my teed-up ball for 30 minutes, waiting for the ambulance to move or to get some news of what was going on. I was eventually told by an employee at the golf course that I should tee off on the back nine of the golf course. I made my way to the back nine and started my round. The ambulance remained on the course until I was three holes into my round.
As I was walking up the 18th fairway my phone began to ring. My boss had called me to inform me that the University of Maine hockey coach Dennis “Red” Gendron had died while golfing at the Penobscot Country Club, and I was asked to write this article. This became a moment in my life I will never forget.
Red Gendron had been the head coach of the UMaine men’s ice hockey program since 2013.
He started his coaching career in 1979 as an assistant coach at the Berlin High School in Berlin, New Hampshire. In 1981 Gendron went on to get his first head coaching position at the Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans, Vermont. Gendron led Bellows Free Academy to four state championships in his nine years as their head coach.
In 1990, Gendron became an assistant coach under Shawn Walsh for the UMaine men’s hockey team. In 1993, Gendron helped to lead the Black Bears to their first-ever National Championship title. The 1992-93 Maine Black Bears came to be considered one of the best college hockey teams ever when they went 42-1-2 and featured future NHL Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Kariya.
After the 1993 National Championship season, Gendron moved on to the NHL, where he worked as a technological specialist for the New Jersey Devils. In the 1994-95 season, he was promoted to serve as an assistant coach for New Jersey’s head coach, Jacques Lemaire. Gendron helped lead yet another team to their first championship. The Devils swept the Detroit Red Wings to win the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals with Red Gendron behind the bench. The Devils were a great team that produced multiple hockey Hall of Fame players such as Scott Stevens, Scott Neidermayer and Martin Brodeur. Gendron’s name made it on the cup a second time as an assistant coach in 2000 after the Devils defeated the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup final. Gendron remained as a part of the New Jersey Devils Organization until 2004.
After a single season as head coach of the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League USHL, Red returned to the world of college hockey in 2005, this time with the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He stayed on as the assistant head coach for the Minutemen for six seasons. In 2011, Red Gendron left UMass and joined the coaching staff of Yale University where he once again proved to be a championship-winning coach.
In 2013 the Yale Bulldogs were able to claim the last at large bid to be the last team to make the NCAA tournament. Yale went on a Cinderella run, upsetting the second-ranked University of Minnesota in the first round and beating the number one ranked team Quinnipiac University in the National Championship game. This was Yale’s first ever NCAA Division I National Championship in hockey, and Red Gendron’s second National Championship as a coach.
After helping Yale win the national championship in 2013, Gendron finally was offered his first head coaching position in college hockey.
Red Gendron returned to the University of Maine where his college coaching career began back in 1990, rounding out a successful career.
Gendron coached the Black Bears from 2013 to 2021. As the head coach for Maine, Gendron helped UMaine finish with a winning record in his first full season. The Black Bears peaked under Gendron in the 2019-20 season, where Maine finished fourth in the Hockey East standings.
After Gendron’s death on Friday, hundreds of people took to social media to commemorate his impact on their lives. Players from the past and present made posts in honor of their fallen coach on various social media platforms. Many college coaches and rival programs gave statements after his passing, all in praise of how good of a man he was.
A moment of silence in honor of Gendron was held at the NCAA Division I Championship competition between UMass and St. Cloud State that concluded on April 10.
Red Gendron will be remembered throughout the UMaine community and beyond for being a great coach and an even greater person.