New Maine head coach Ben Barr makes hard decision to leave UMass hockey

  • Maine hired UMass associate head coach Ben Barr to be its next head coach Wednesday. Barr spent five seasons with the Minutemen as the recruiting coordinator in addition to coaching the defensemen. UMASS ATHLETICS/CHRIS TUCCI

  • Maine hired UMass associate head coach Ben Barr to be its head coach Wednesday. Barr spent five seasons with the Minutemen as the recruiting coordinator and also coached the defensemen. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

  • Maine hired UMass associate head coach Ben Barr to be its head coach Wednesday. Barr spent five seasons with the Minutemen as the recruiting coordinator and also coached the defensemen. CONTRIBUTED/Rich Gagnon

  • Maine hired UMass associate head coach Ben Barr to be its head coach Wednesday. Barr spent five seasons with the Minutemen as the recruiting coordinator and also coached the defensemen. THOM KENDALL/UMASS ATHLETICS

Staff Writer
Published: 5/12/2021 11:10:07 AM

Ben Barr walked into the Mullins Center for the final time as a member of the UMass hockey coaching staff Tuesday. He told head coach Greg Carvel and fellow associate head coach Jared DeMichiel that he was leaving the Minutemen to become Maine’s next head coach.

“Walking up to the office knowing what I was going to tell them was hard. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve done. That’s a credit to Carvel and everyone on the staff that made it so hard. I’m still a little emotional about it,” Barr said. “At the end of the day we all dream about being able to go to a school like the University of Maine and be a head coach. With my familiarity with (Maine athletic director) Ken (Ralph) and some of the alumni, it was a no-brainer for me if I had the opportunity. As hard as it is to leave something you’re really, really proud of, if I’m being true to myself, it’s 100 percent the right decision.”

Ralph, who was the AD at RIT during Barr’s playing days there, announced the hiring Wednesday. Barr agreed to a four-year contract that has a stipulation to extend two more years if the Black Bears have a winning record in Hockey East.

“I’m very humbled. It’s a dream come true for me. If you’re not going to make it to the NHL and have a 10-year pro career at the top of the game, this is every bit as good for someone like myself,” Barr said. “It’s truly an honor. I don’t view it that different from my roles in the past. When you’re trying to build something and you’re that invested in it, you throw your whole self into it at all times.”

He spent five years at UMass with Greg Carvel as the team’s recruiting coordinator and also coached the defensemen. The Minutemen won their first national championship in April.

“Ben Barr has made an indelible mark on the UMass hockey program and will forever be a national champion. Ben has been highly instrumental in helping put together multiple championship teams at the Division 1 level and I am excited to see him get the opportunity to serve as a head coach,” UMass coach Greg Carvel said in a release. “Ben has found success due to his work ethic and knowledge of the game but what sets him apart, in my eyes, is that he is a high-quality individual and I will miss working with him on a daily basis. We wish him luck and thank him for everything he has given to UMass hockey over the past five years.”

Barr, 39, will follow Red Gendron, a former UMass assistant who passed away April 9. Gendron coached the Black Bears since 2013.

“This was a search we had not anticipated in this year. The circumstances of it were difficult. It was tough sometimes to reconcile your personal feelings with the needs of your program,” Ralph said. “We had to find the best coach that we could. Through it all, we got our number one choice.”

It will be Barr’s first head coaching position. He was also an assistant at Union and Providence before coming to UMass, and spent 15 years as a Division I assistant. Vermont and RPI, his alma mater, also considered Barr for their coaching vacancies in recent years before deciding on other candidates.

“He’s been a winner at multiple programs. He’s walked the path. It’s not by chance,” Ralph said. “We put Ben through the wringer harder than the other candidates. When you’re good, you don’t mind that.”


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