‘Sudden’ decision ends Dartmouth hockey coach Bob Gaudet’s long career

  • Dartmouth men's hockey coach Bob Gaudet, center, put the Big Green through its paces on Dec. 30, 2009, at Thompson Arena in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Catalin Abagiu) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Dartmouth College men's hockey coach Bob Gaudet with his daughter, Kelly, in an Oct. 23, 2004, photograph. All three of Gaudet's children played hockey at Hanover High, and sons Joe and Jim also skated for their father at Dartmouth. Gaudet announced his retirement on April 22, 2020, after 23 years on the job. (Dartmouth College photograph) Dartmouth College photograph

  • Dartmouth Head Coach Bob Gaudet gets high fives from young fans before taking on University of Vermont in Hanover, N.H., on Wednesday, December 5, 2012. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news file — Ryan Dorgan

  • Dartmouth College men's hockey coach Bob Gaudet shares a celebratory moment with forward Tanner Glass (15) in a Dec. 29, 2004. Glass was one of 10 Big Green players that Gaudet sent on to NHL teams. Gaudet retired as Dartmouth coach on April 22, 2020, after 23 years on the job. (Dartmouth College photograph) Dartmouth College photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/24/2020 11:34:24 AM
Modified: 4/24/2020 11:34:12 AM

HANOVER — The end came quickly, emotionally and from a distance.

Barely a day removed from notifying his players via a Zoom conference, Bob Gaudet acknowledged on Thursday that he was still finding it “hard to wrap my head around” the notion of retirement.

The 61-year-old, who guided Dartmouth College men’s hockey for 23 years and who tended goal for the last two Big Green teams to make the NCAA Tournament, called an end to his bench career on Wednesday evening.

Gaudet said in a phone interview that he’s hoping to spend more time helping his sister, Kathy, care for their 90-year-old father and 88-year-old mother in Massachusetts.

He also owes his wife, Lynne, his presence after all the years she supported his career and motored their three children — all Dartmouth graduates now — to their youth hockey and school commitments.

Retirement wasn’t on his radar when the most recent hockey season commenced.

“That said, I feel good; I feel like I’ve got a lot of jump left,” Gaudet said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. I knew at some point that I’d get to the point in my career where you’ve got to make those decisions. I’m at that age now.”

Gaudet won a school-record 331 games and became just the seventh coach in NCAA history to reach 1,000 games behind the bench in January. The Big Green never made the NCAAs under Gaudet, narrowly missing out on several occasions, but his 2005-06 team shared the Bill Cleary Cup with Colgate as ECAC Hockey regular-season champions and seven of his teams made the conference tournament semifinals.

Gaudet was also twice named the league’s coach of the year, once at Dartmouth and once at Brown.

“Shocked,” former Big Green player Eric Przepiorka said of his reaction to the news. “I had seen Coach G not too long ago, at alumni weekend, and I talked to him a month ago. I didn’t expect it. I thought he’d be coaching for a couple more years. It seems like the team is right on the cusp of being good and going in the right direction.”

Gaudet will remain on the job through June 30.

Family means a lot to Gaudet, which made Wednesday’s announcement particularly painful. The ideal scenario would have had the coach gathering his staff and players in one location, most likely their Thompson Arena locker room, to inform them first.

Gaudet and his wife have split time between their Hanover home and a Lakes Region family retreat in Freedom, N.H., since the season ended last month.

Dartmouth closed its campus shortly thereafter over coronavirus concerns, which meant Gaudet’s goodbye had to be done remotely, at the tail end of a call announcing postseason team awards.

“Obviously, it wasn’t the way that anyone wanted to hear such monumental news about a coach that we care for,” captain Brendan Demler said in a phone interview from suburban Cincinnati. “Overall, it’s been a very emotional 24 hours now for me personally and the rest of the team. The way things went yesterday, it was never expected that a coach who has been with the program so long wouldn’t be keeping the good times rolling. It was sudden, and with the remote situation Coach handled it as professionally as possible.”

Gaudet admitted difficulty as well.

“It’s the relationships in this business that are the most important thing and the thing I treasure,” he said. “It’s not how many goals you score or how many recruits you get. It’s being part of a real team, a real family. That’s the tough part of having to pass along the information on a Zoom call. But it’s the times we’re in and the best we could do.”

Coaching as a job didn’t cross Gaudet’s mind initially.

He was in the Winnipeg Jets’ minor league system after graduating in 1981 before George Crowe, Gaudet’s Dartmouth coach, convinced him to join his staff. Gaudet also cut his coaching teeth working Crowe’s Phillips Exeter Academy summer camps.

Gaudet was just 29 when Brown University hired him as head coach in 1988. His success over nine winters there led to his Hanover return in 1997.

Przepiorka credited Gaudet with creating an environment where on-ice and off-ice successes were equally important.

The Michigan native and 2006 Dartmouth graduate played eight seasons of minor league and European hockey before returning to the Granite State to teach and coach at New Hampton School.

“I think he wanted me to get better as a player and to push me, but he also cared about what was going on in the classroom and what was going on in my life,” Przepiorka said. “We’ve kept in touch to this day.”

The next Dartmouth coach will have to be familiar with the unique needs of the school, program and Ivy League, Gaudet said. He sees former player Ben Lovejoy, who ended an 11-year NHL career last fall and who served as a Big Green volunteer assistant this past season, as a possible candidate.

“There are all kinds of nuances to this job,” Gaudet pointed out. “It’s without scholarships, with the high academic level. ... You can’t go out and just get anybody.”

Gaudet’s 23 years in charge are second only to Eddie Jeremiah’s 26 spread out over three stints in Hanover. Gaudet surpassed Jeremiah as Dartmouth’s all-time winningest coach in 2018.

The next one in charge will have that as a backdrop.

“To put it into words how much the place means to me and my family is really, really hard,” Gaudet said. “(Wednesday) was a brutally tough day. But the choice is mine.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.

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