BERLIN — The sudden death of University of Maine men’s hockey coach Dennis “Red” Gendron on Friday shocked and saddened his former mates who remembered him as a multi-sport standout and a hard-working hockey player.
“He had some size and he had a mean streak to him and he wasn’t afraid to use it,” Paul Grenier recalled of Gendron, 63.
“I grew up with Red and when we were kids, we played city-league hockey together,” said Grenier, who is now mayor of Berlin, and who, like Gendron, was a defenseman.
“He was a very good hockey player and had a lot more ability than I had. He had a lot of desire and he worked really hard as a kid to be the best he could be.”
Grenier called Gendron a prime example of perseverance, who came into his own under the tutelage of the late Normand B. “Husky” Poirier.
The father of youth hockey in Berlin, Poirier played for the Berlin Maroons hockey teams from 1948 to 1962, during which time the Maroons won the AHA New England Hockey Championships and the National AHAUS Hockey Tournament.
Poirier also coached the Junior Maroons, whose lineup once included Gendron. Both Poirier and Gendron are members of the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey.
Grenier said he last spoke at length with Gendron prior to Gendron’s induction (as a coach) into that hall of fame in 2007.
There was a buzz, said Grenier, in Berlin — “Hockey Town U.S.A.” — when Gendron in 1995 brought the Stanley Cup to his alma mater, Berlin High School. Gendron was an assistant coach for the Cup-winning New Jersey Devils that year.
Grenier said Gendron was also “a pretty strong fullback in high school” and a talented baseball player, too.
The mayor said he was not surprised that Gendron accomplished as much as he did in his life, “Because when someone would tell him ‘no,’ that’s when he really hunkered down.”
Grenier said Gendron’s approach to hockey and also who he was as a person can be summed up in three words: “Never give up.”
Mark Dorval, who is president of the Notre Dame Arena, where Gendron played his games as a member of both the Berlin Mountaineers and the Junior Maroons, said he knew Gendron because his older brother played hockey with Gendron.
Dorval, who went on to play at the University of New Hampshire, was supposed to be one of Gendron’s players at Berlin High, but by that time, Gendron had moved on to other coaching opportunities.
Like Grenier, Dorval cited Poirier as an important influence on Gendron. In turn, he added, Gendron had an influence upon the professional and collegiate teams he coached and more broadly, hockey in America.
“Over the years, we’ve touched base,” said Dorval, who more recently had planned to visit Gendron at a UNH-Maine hockey game in Orono but never got that chance because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our community will definitely miss him (Gendron),” said Dorval. “He’s a legend of New Hampshire hockey and he’s a New Hampshire legend.”
Mike Chabot, who runs the pro shop at the Notre Dame Arena, was a teammate of Gendron’s on what was one of the state’s first travel hockey teams.
The team — the Berlin Pee Wee B’s — was coached by his late father, Roland Chabot.
“It’s too bad,” said Chabot, that Gendron’s life was cut short. “He persevered and at every level. He won. He came from this little thing (Notre Dame Arena and the City of Berlin) and he rose to a really high level in what he did.”
John Koziol, firstname.lastname@example.org