A real mentor: The wins are great, but the winningest coach in school history says relationships are what have mattered most to him.
IN HIS first season as the Brown men’s hockey coach, Bob Gaudet won one game. It came against his alma mater, Dartmouth College, in Hanover.
Last Friday in a 3-2 victory over then-No. 16 Cornell, Gaudet surpassed fellow Dartmouth alum Eddie Jeremiah for the most career wins as coach of the Big Green.
Gaudet, who is in his 22nd season as Dartmouth’s head coach, has led the program to 309 wins. He is Dartmouth’s second-longest serving head coach, behind Jeremiah, who led the program for 26 seasons.
Dartmouth’s players honored Gaudet’s milestone after the triumph over the Big Red when senior captain Kevan Kilistoff presented him with the game puck.
“Coach G is the type of guy you would run through a brick wall for,” senior assistant captain Carl Hesler said. “That’s because you know he cares about you and your teammates as much if not more than the end result. I’ve known since the day I met him how much he cares about his players and how much he loves Dartmouth and this program.”
Gaudet will try to add wins No. 310 and 311 to his career total in Dartmouth’s upcoming home-and-home series with its in-state rival, the University of New Hampshire. The Big Green (4-3-1) will host UNH (2-7-5) Friday at 7 p.m. and face the Wildcats in Durham on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Gaudet has not yet reflected on the accolade and joked that reaching it is almost a little embarrassing.
“That’s what happens when you become an old guy,” Gaudet said. “They start giving you things.”
In a more serious tone, Gaudet said he is grateful he has had the opportunity to coach at the school he and his wife met at and where their three children also attended.
“I’ve been fortunate I’ve had the chance to coach so many really good players, work with great people on my support staff and I feel blessed to be here all this time and have that longevity,” Gaudet said.
Gaudet never thought about entering coaching until he decided his playing days were over. The Saugus, Mass., native minded the Big Green net from 1977-81 and signed with the Winnipeg Jets but eventually decided he was not good enough to play in the NHL.
“Coaching kept me in the game,” Gaudet said. “It’s not like when I was playing, I was thinking about coaching. I wanted to stay in the game so I did.”
Gaudet served as an assistant coach at Dartmouth from 1983-88 before becoming the head coach at Ivy League and ECAC rival Brown ahead of the 1988-89 season. Brown went 1-25 in Gaudet’s first year behind the bench, with that one victory coming at Dartmouth.
“We came out of the gate with a win and didn’t win another one,” Gaudet said. “That’s why it’s so memorable — not because we beat Dartmouth but because it was the only win.”
The Bears went 93-142-31 over Gaudet’s nine seasons leading the team, winning the Ivy League crown in both 1991 and 1995. Dartmouth won the ECAC title in 2006 and shared the Ivy League crown in 2007 under Gaudet, who owns a 402-454-105 all-time coaching record. Gaudet was named the ECAC Coach of the Year in both 1995 and 2006.
“It’s very difficult to be a consistent winner in the Ivy League,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said in a statement. “Bobby has been a great leader in the Ivy League at both Dartmouth and Brown.”
Harvard coach Ted Donato echoed Schafer’s sentiments.
“Bob is an excellent coach and a role model for all of us other coaches as to how to do things the right way,” Donato said in a statement. “We are lucky to have him in the ECAC and in college hockey as a whole.”
Brown coach Brendan Whittet was a defenseman for Gaudet at Brown from 1990-94. He returned to Brown as a member of Gaudet’s coaching staff in 1996 and joined his former coach at Dartmouth in 1998. Whittet was responsible for the defensemen and penalty-kill unit at Dartmouth for 11 years before becoming Brown’s head coach ahead of the 2009-10 season.
“I look at coach Gaudet as a mentor, as someone who gave me an opportunity not just as a coach but as a player to go to Brown and then he allowed me to be on his staff,” Whittet said. “The best thing about working for him was he wanted your input. He didn’t want yes-men. He wanted you to make an impact and make an imprint on the program.”
Whittet said Gaudet allowed him to grow as a coach by giving him a lot of responsibility and not micromanaging the staff. Because of how Gaudet’s approach helped him, Whittet treats his assistants the same way at Brown.
“If you were to look at how I’ve molded myself here as a head coach, I take a lot of what I learned from Bob,” Whittet said. “I think so much of him not just as a coach but he’s one of the best people I’ve ever been around….I look back on those days and miss him, quite honestly.”
Gaudet was not looking to leave Brown following the Bears’ 1996-97 season but said when the Dartmouth job opened up, it was a natural fit. During his time at Brown, Gaudet said the biggest thing he learned about coaching is the importance of connecting with your players.
“As much as you want to move the chess pieces around as a coach and think Xs and Os, it’s actually people you’re working with on a day-to-day basis,” Gaudet said. “You can push them but they have to know you feel and care about them.”
UNH coach Mike Souza, who served as an assistant to Whittet at Brown from 2011-13, said it is clear Gaudet’s players enjoy being coached by him.
“I think the players love playing for him,” Souza said. “His teams, I think, reflect his personality. They play hard. He coaches hard. He’s vocal on the bench and he’s a competitor and his teams are always competitive.”
Over his time in Hanover, Gaudet has coached players that have reached the NHL like Lee Stempniak, who is currently a free agent and previously played for the Boston Bruins, and New Jersey Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who is from Orford. Gaudet also coached both his sons, Joe and Jim.
Joe, who graduated from Dartmouth in 2010, previously coached boys’ hockey at Vermont Academy. Jim, who graduated in 2012, is a coach with the Boston Bandits of the NCDC.
“I was really apprehensive initially to have the boys come to Dartmouth to play for their dad because — and this is going to sound foolish — but I was apprehensive because I didn’t want to ruin our relationship,” Gaudet said. “And it was the greatest experience….The relationship strengthened, I think.”
Gaudet said many of his former players have reached out recently to congratulate him on his achievement. What Gaudet enjoys most about his job, one he intends to stay at as long as Dartmouth will have him, is the bond built between player and coach.
“You go through the hockey player and coach relationship for four years then become friends,” Gaudet said. “It’s one of the special things about being a coach.”
Souza expects UNH senior defenseman Richie Boyd to return to the lineup Friday at Dartmouth but that is the only Wildcat who will return from injury this weekend, the coach said.
Boyd left last Friday’s 1-1 tie at Providence due to a muscle injury, Souza said, and missed UNH’s 3-1 loss to the Friars the following night. Boyd returned to practice Tuesday.
Defensemen Benton Maass and Matt Dawson, who are both out with shoulder injuries, and forwards Jackson Pierson (upper body) and Charlie Kelleher (lower body) will not play in the Dartmouth series.
“I think if we were to play next week, I think you might see Jackson back, you might see Charlie back but I think it’s the smart play on our part just to hold them off for one more week,” Souza said.
Nashua’s Justin Pearson and Concord’s Colin Stevens both recorded their first career collegiate goals recently.
Pearson, a freshman forward at Yale, tallied his first goal and fourth career assist in the Bulldogs’ 5-3 victory at St. Lawrence last Friday. Stevens, a freshman defenseman at Connecticut College, logged his first goal via a rebound shot from the doorstep to open the game’s scoring in the Camels’ 4-1 win at Salem State Tuesday.