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Getting to know UMaine’s new men’s ice hockey coach Ben Barr

The University of Maine’s new men’s ice hockey coach is Ben Barr. Barr was born on Dec. 16, 1981, in Duluth, Minnesota. He played prep school hockey at Shattuck-Saint Mary’s, in Faribault and went on to graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Barr now lives in Orono, Maine, and is looking to lead the men’s hockey team to victory. 

Barr spoke highly about his time as a student-athlete at Shattuck-Saint Mary’s, which has produced many famous NHL players, such as Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, Jonathan Toews and Ryan McDonagh.

“I learned so much from playing at SSM and I was able to experience a great educational environment as well,” said Barr.

Barr went to RPI when he was 18 and acknowledged that he wasn’t as prepared as he thought he’d be.

“I went on to college when I was 18, which wasn’t necessary. I wasn’t ready to play there but I did have four great years there. The team didn’t win any championships but we did have winning seasons,” he said. “I got a good education and got the opportunity to play college hockey in a great conference.”

In his four years at RPI, he played in 140 games, scored 25 goals and had 39 assists. Barr was named captain of the team in his fourth year at RPI.

Barr talked about the culture shock moving from Faribault to Troy, New York. “You don’t see a lot of people coming from Minnesota to New York,” he said. “It was definitely a culture shock, but it was a great experience in tons of different ways.”

After his time at RPI, Barr moved to Albany and worked as a mortgage broker while also volunteering as an assistant coach at RPI. During his time as a volunteer coach, Barr learned how to be a coach and work with college athletes. 

“In the coaching world, we get in as volunteers and then work our way up to paid coaching positions.”

Barr returned again to RPI as a volunteer coach after coaching a local pee wee team, the Capital District Selects.

Barr’s first paid coaching position was with Union College as an assistant coach in 2008, where he worked under Nate Leaman. In Barr’s four years at Union, he was a part of the coaching staff that led the team to win the Cleary Cup. The team also took a trip to the NCAA tournament and lost to Minnesota-Duluth, who went on to win the national championship.

After his first paid coaching job, Barr followed Leaman over to Providence College in 2012 to continue working with him. Barr then moved on to an associate head coach at Western Michigan University in 2014. 

At Western Michigan, Barr got to work with Andy Murray, his former head coach at Shattuck St. Mary’s. Barr valued that he got to learn from someone who also helped him develop as a player.

Barr moved on to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he spent six years on the coaching staff. He was first an assistant coach in 2016 and then moved up to associate head coach from 2017 to 2021. In Barr’s first season with UMass Amherst, the team won only five games all season. It took them three years to finally reach the NCAA tournament in 2019. The team developed and grew over the years and slowly started winning more games, eventually leading them to win the Hockey East tournament for the first time in 2019.

The team made their first appearance with Barr in the NCAA tournament the same year and made it to the national championship game where they lost to Minnesota-Duluth. Last season, Barr also won the 2021 national championship with UMass Amherst along with the Hockey East tournament. He was then appointed to be the head coach at UMaine after the sudden passing of former head coach Red Gendron.

Now at the helm of the men’s hockey team at UMaine, Barr plans to improve the culture within the program. He reiterated the importance of evaluating the situation and working on the program’s culture.

“It starts with me, then filters down both on-ice and off-ice within the team and not just what the students and fans will see on Friday and Saturday nights,” Barr said.

Barr stressed the importance of being held accountable both on ice and off ice. He wants the team to be great students, to work well with the community and hopes that this will translate to the team working well together on the ice. Barr’s expectations for the team this season are rather simple. He expects the team to come to the rink, come with a high level of commitment and effort, a positive attitude and a growth mindset. 

“If we take care of those things, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win every night,” he said.

When asked about the opportunity to be the head coach here at UMaine, Barr was both humbled and honored with the opportunity presented to him.

“I’m humbled and honored to have this opportunity, it’s not going to be an overnight turnaround, it’s going to be a process over a few years. I’m confident that we’ll get to where we need to be and I’m looking forward to going on this journey with the UMaine community and the state of Maine,” Barr said.

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