Hanover, NH — Coaching is a unique lifestyle and profession. It is a results-orientated business. The world of NCAA ice hockey is no different from any other profession, produce or else. What merits a successful season or a successful career? Is it National Championships? Or Conference titles? Or is it graduation rates? For Dartmouth College Men’s Ice Hockey Coach Bob Gaudet that success might not be the cumulative won-lost record, which is 418-468-111 (.473%) through today, but more so based on what his relationship with the Ivy League school and the people that pass through it is.
Last weekend Coach Gaudet coached in his 1,000th career game. Only nine other coaches have achieved the milestone, and it is quite the who’s who of coaching legends. Gaudet joins Jerry York, Jack Parker, Red Berenson, and Ron Mason to name a few. He is one of seven to have achieved the feat while coaching in the same conference for all 1,000 games. He is the first to do so in the ECAC. In fact, his entire career has been spent in the ECAC having played at Dartmouth from 1977-81, Head Coach at Brown University from 1988 to 1997 and at Dartmouth from 1997 to present. Even his time as an assistant coach was spent on the Dartmouth staff from 1983-88.
The game itself, a 4-3 overtime win for the Big Green, was on the road. A conference battle against fellow Ivy Leaguers Princeton, fittingly at Hobey Baker Arena the second oldest in NCAA, signifying longevity for a career that dates back to 1983.
“It’s one of those things that you don’t really think much about,” said Gaudet of his milestone. “It was important to get a win against Princeton. I guess it means I’ve been at it a long time.”
“When you talk about the time you’re in it,” said the coach. “It’s kind of like you just live day-to-day, that’s the coaching life, it’s always something. You just have to be in the moment. If you dwell on the past or concern yourself with something in the future it gets tough. So after it’s all said and done, God willing, I’ll maybe have a chance to reflect on it.”
“We acknowledged him in the locker room after that 1,000th game,” said senior assistant captain Cam Strong. “Of course he tries to downplay it as always, he’s just a humble guy. He wants to make it about us, but it’s quite the feat so we wanted to acknowledge him for that.”
This past Saturday night in front of 2,511 fans the Big Green hosted the Boston University Terriers. It was the first game at Dartmouth’s Thompson Arena since Gaudet achieved his milestone and it was a remarkably exciting tilt as the visitors jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening 15 minutes. Gaudet’s Big Green stormed back to tie it in just 1:40 of action at the end of the period. Dartmouth fell behind again in the second period only to bounce back on a forty-seven second and a two-goal output from sophomore Drew O’Connor. The Big Green held on for the win to go 8-5-3 on the season.
“I’ve been fortunate honestly to have longevity in my career. I feel really blessed actually because I’ve got to work with some great people, players, staff people over the stretch of time at Brown and Dartmouth. It’s the guys on the team that really keep you going. The longevity is partly luck, and perseverance I guess. But also I’m passionate about the game, about helping these kids try to reach the next level, not just as players but as people too. You always try to be a solid role model and that’s what I’ve tried to do over the course of time.”
“It wasn’t in my thought process coming through. I went to Dartmouth to get a really good education and I wanted to play professionally. When that didn’t work out I saw the writing on the wall and decided to move along,” said the 32-year veteran of his start in the business.
“I owe so much to my old coach, George Crowe, God rest his soul, he passed away last year. He gave me my first coaching job out of the blue. He needed an assistant coach and he saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
“He gave me an opportunity to be an assistant coach at the Division 1 (level) with no experience. He gave me a lot of responsibility. Because I started fairly young, and back then there was only one assistant when I first started, I got a lot of experience in coaching. I coached the J.V. team, recruiting and all that stuff and deal with different facets of the school. So five years later, I’m still in my twenties and I became the Head Coach at Brown.”
“It was kind of a pretty quick process,” said Gaudet. “I was lucky George contacted me and I owe him so much. He got me in the business.”
“Before George passed I had a great conversation with him,” added Gaudet about his relationship with his former coach. “I was able to thank him and tell him how much he’s meant to my life. and here I am now 37 years later still coaching from the job he gave me way back when. It’s pretty amazing.”
What George Crowe gave coach Gaudet in the early 80s is something that Bob has been able to pass along to others that were in situations like him. Former Dartmouth player, and current Merrimack College Head Coach Scott Borek, whose playing career was cut short due to injuries while still in school, transitioned to the coaching world as a student assistant on Crowe’s Big Green staff in 1983.
“We worked for George together, we shared the JV team,” recalled Borek of those early days in Hanover. “My first few years as a student coach we’re his first few years as a coach. He was incredibly humble, he was coming out of pro hockey and I’m a junior in college. He allowed me to be involved in every facet, he never took it like I was just a student or I was just a manager. He was just really, really good to me.”
“Everyday Bob found a win,” said Borek of their early days at Brown. “It was pretty cool. And he got me to think ‘you know what? Making an impact matters.’
“Our first year we were 1-25,” said Borek of that ’88-89 Brown team. “We won our first game, lost 25 in a row. Which is hard to believe given the fact that there were ties, we didn’t even have a tie. We had no ties. It was nuts.”
“Our fifth year there,” said Borek of the 1992-93 team. “Our first recruits were in the national tournament. It was pretty cool, it was at a place that no one thought it could happen, it happened. I think it was his optimism, his positivity, and his personalism made that happen.”
Former Brown player, and current Head Coach Brendan Whittet, who played for Gaudet at the Providence school from 1990-94, was on that tournament team and also spent time with him on both of Gaudet’s Brown and Dartmouth staffs.
“I’ve known Bob forever,” said Whittet after a recent game. “Bob’s my mentor, he’s like a father figure to me. I’ve known him since I was 17-years-old. He recruited me to Brown, I was lucky enough to be able to play for Brown, for Bob. He’s a guy that you want to play for. He’s a good guy, he’s a demanding guy, he’s an energizing guy. He’ll always back his team and his players and you want to go through a wall for a guy like that. I think you see that with most of his teams.”
“He’s a very good tactical coach, he knows the game inside and out,” added Whittet. “But more than anything, he’s just a good guy. As a player you want to play for him. As a coach, I wanted to work for him. And you want to do your best for guys like that, guys that believe in you.”
“I’m better for having played for him, and I’m better for having worked with him,” said Whittet.
Ben Lovejoy a former Dartmouth star, is back home in Hanover after a successful NHL career, as a volunteer assistant this season. Lovejoy bleeds Dartmouth green just as much as Gaudet.
“I grew up in the Upper Valley and Dartmouth hockey was my team,” said Lovejoy. “I grew up coming to games starting in third grade and Bob came in when I was in sixth or seventh grade. The culture changed here. The team was full of good humans who were trying to grow the game in the Hanover area. People became infatuated and it was because of him. He came and brought an energy to the program and to New Hampshire and Vermont hockey.”
“When I came to Dartmouth I was at a low point in my hockey career,” added Lovejoy who played his freshman year at Boston College. “I was struggling, I came here and he gave me all sorts of confidence. My career really changed here, and it took off. I feel like I owe him everything. He was so good to me. He’s such a good coach, he’s such a good human being. Everybody that walks into this locker room is better because of him.”
“First of all, he is an outstanding guy,” said Strong, a four-year member of the squad. “As a coach, he’s been an incredible mentor for all of us. He’s a really good motivational coach, he gets us going, he brings the energy in the locker room and we just try to carry that out there.”
“My four years with him have been awesome. Every year I’ve learned a lot from him, it’s been great.”
“He cares so deeply that everyone is willing to do anything for him and for this team. He helps everybody out more than just as hockey players when they leave here they are going to be better people in life because of him.”
While the accomplishments and awards aren’t as numerous as other coaches on the previous lists, Gaudet did win the ECAC Hockey Coach of the Year Award in 1995 and 2006 and won the ECAC Regular Season Championship in 2006. He has lasted 31 years as a head coach at just two stops. It’s apparent when speaking to those that know Gaudet that success is measured in more ways than one.
“Being here at Dartmouth, the passion I have for the school, which I owe so much to. I came out of Saugus High School in Massachusetts and had the opportunity to go to Dartmouth. I look at the good fortune and ‘attitude of gratitude’ to have met my wife at Dartmouth, to have all three kids go to Dartmouth (son Joe graduated in 2010, Jim in 2012, and daughter Kelly in 2017), to coach my two sons while they were here. I’ve been very fortunate. I pinch myself.”
Gaudet met his wife, Lynne, while both were students at the Hanover school. The two are members of the Class of ’81. Lynne has been an integral part of the coach’s career.
“My wife Lynne is a saint,” said Gaudet. “We’ve been married for thirty-seven years, throughout my whole coaching career she’s been so supportive. So influential in terms of her attitude, her organizational ability. She’s a great mother, a great wife, and I’m really fortunate there that she’s an understanding person in terms of this crazy business. She’s been in it with me ever since it’s a partnership.”
“She got a really big Dartmouth Alumni award for all the work that she’s done for the college,” added Gaudet turning the attention to his spouse. “She was in Alumni Relations for 19 years before she retired recently. She’s done a lot. Even when I was down at Brown she was involved with the Rhode Island Club of Dartmouth. She’s been involved with the college for a long, long time, so she bleeds ‘Green’ too.”
“It’s a little self-serving and selfish maybe, but having the chance to coach both of my sons in college,” said Gaudet when asked what his most memorable moment was so far. “There wasn’t a specific moment but there were a bunch of moments. It was just really an amazing experience. I was nervous about it, to be honest, the kids weren’t. I just didn’t want to screw up the relationship I had with them by being their coach. They took everything in stride, and it was so much fun. Those will be memories for a lifetime to have.”
With 13 ECAC games to go on the 2019-20 season, Gaudet knows there’s more work to be done. The Big Green are currently in seventh place in the conference and just outside the NCAA top twenty. They have the players to make a push for post-season play. That’s where the coach’s focus is today.
Dartmouth hosts Clarkson on Friday and St. Lawrence on Saturday. Both games are at 7:00 pm EST.