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UNH celebrates Umile with special night

UNH Insider

February 11. 2018 10:39PM
UNH men's hockey coach Dick Umile speaks at a press conference during September's media day in Durham. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)

DURHAM — The young hockey player and the veteran Hockey East commissioner stood on the concourse at the Whittemore Center and discussed hockey fashion between the first and second period of the University of New Hampshire-Vermont hockey game Saturday night.

In short order, commissioner Joe Bertagna proceeded to take off the special-order hockey jersey he had commissioned for a special occasion and handed it to the youngster with one provision: He had to share it with his cousins and siblings.

Quinn Haggerty was elated. He’s one of the eight grandchildren of UNH hockey coach Dick Umile and he scored himself a new jersey.

Saturday night Quinn became the proud owner of a vintage jersey featuring the No. 15 his grandfather wore when he played for Melrose High School in the 1960s, before he starred at UNH and well before he started a 28-year career as head coach of the Wildcats,

The jersey exchange was one more memorable moment in a night full of them as UNH celebrated Coach Umile Weekend, honoring the coach who is retiring after this season.

The night featured the introduction of more than 100 former Wildcats, among them some of the greatest players in program history, from Darren Haydar, Colin Hemingway and Sean Collins to Ty Conklin, Mike Ayers and Kevin Regan.

It featured Bertagna presenting the prestigious Hockey East Founders Medal to Umile — he’s only the 12th individual, second coach and first active coach — to receive it.

And it featured Umile family moments galore, from the whole group joining him on the bench for a pregame video tribute, to his teenage granddaughter Lily Rose Cook dropping a ceremonial first puck to Quinn’s new jersey.

“First, let me just say it was an incredible night, to have the people that were here and the recognition,” said Umile in his opening remarks in a postgame press conference. “It was unbelievable. I can’t thank the university and everybody that was involved enough for the effort they put on today and throughout the season.”

Umile and his family soaked it all in.

“It was very emotional to be honest with you,” Umile said. “They started bringing these players out there. The video was awesome. It just brings back what it’s all about. It’s the memories. I know we’ve had a tough time winning hockey games here, but it is all about the journey and the players and the coaches and the fans and the excitement of UNH hockey. It was on display on the video board. It was special.”

The present-day Wildcats and even the visiting Catamounts appreciated the night.

“It was a very special night,” said junior forward Marcus Vela, who scored a power play goal on a rebound with 2:34 left to earn the Wildcats a 2-2 tie. “He’s a legendary coach and a great person and a great mentor. We were all excited for him. Really happy and really proud. Refocusing wasn’t hard to do. We were ready to play.”

Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon, long a fan of Umile, was in agreement as well.

“First and foremost, obviously there was a real good hockey game tonight but I certainly want to tip my cap to UNH for putting on what was just an amazing pregame salute to one of college hockey’s finest gentlemen and coaches,” Sneddon said. “I know he’s got more games to coach, but he’s always been one of my favorite guys in the game. I want to congratulate him.”

A 2-1 loss on Friday night and Saturday night’s tie leave UNH sitting in 10th in the Hockey East standings, one point behind ninth-place UMass and two behind eighth-place Vermont.

The Wildcats, who are 10-14-6 overall and 5-10-5 (10th) in Hockey East, have four games remaining in the regular season and play host to border rival Maine on Wednesday night at 7.