ORONO, Maine (AP) — The University of Maine yesterday announced the firing of hockey coach Tim Whitehead after 12 seasons, saying the university needs to look in a new direction for a program known for producing National Hockey League standouts like Paul Kariya, Dustin Penner and Ben Bishop.
The university will use up to $195,000 in privately raised money from the president’s discretionary fund to buy out the final year of a four-year contract extension negotiated in 2010.
Athletic Director Steve Abbott said he and President Paul Ferguson are committed “to ensuring that our men’s hockey program is financially sustainable, continues to focus on developing the student-athlete, and is known nationally for excellence.”
“This is about the future of our marquee program,” Abbott said. “Since 2008, Maine has experienced declining Hockey East success, season ticket sales and overall ticket revenues, and waning student engagement in men’s ice hockey.”
It is unclear how Whitehead’s firing will affect local legend and Triton alumnus Bob Corkum, who has served as an associate coach at Maine for the last four seasons. Corkum, a four-year letterwinner for the Black Bears in the 1980s who went on to have a 12-year National Hockey League career, was not available for comment last night.
Whitehead, who had a record of 250-171-54 at Maine, took the team to the national championship game, losing in overtime, in an emotional first season as interim coach after coach Shawn Walsh died from cancer. He later coached another championship game, and his teams made four Frozen Four appearances.
But his teams had losing records for the past six seasons, finishing 11-19-8 before failing to advance in the Hockey East playoffs this year. In a statement, Whitehead said it was an honor to serve at Maine, and he told fans that they’ll have a lot to look forward to in the coming season.