The news University of Maine hockey fans were expecting finally broke Thursday when it was announced men's hockey coach Red Gendron had signed a two-year contract extension.
Gendron, who has behind the Black Bears' bench since 2013, was heading into the final year of an extension he signed prior to the 2015-16 campaign. This deal will keep him in Orono through the 2020-21 season.
Was it the right decision? Absolutely.
I know the championship-starved Maine hockey fan base is frustrated with the wins and losses, but let's be realistic here.
The Black Bears were picked to finish dead last in Hockey East prior to the season. They had finished in either 10th or 11th place each of the prior three seasons before Gendron led them to an 18-16-3 campaign and a sixth-place finish.
If you don't think Gendron deserves this extension, then you're just plain foolish.
First and foremost, lame-duck coaches aren't appealing to recruits. It would've been challenging for Gendron and assistant coach Ben Guite to continue to get more talent in the pipeline with Gendron in a contract year.
There were some in the fan base even calling for Gendron to be fired, which is even more foolish.
That way, you're back to the exact same place the program was at when Tim Whitehead was sacked in the winter of 2013. The potential of recruits decommitting would've been high, and with talent in the pipeline scheduled to arrive in Orono over the next three years, that potential is a scary one.
Recruiting in college hockey is far different than college football or basketball. Recruits are stocked up two or three years before a player will even set foot on campus. Guite has done a great job getting players to commit early in the process, which is huge given Maine doesn't have the facilities that schools like Notre Dame has.
Maine did bow out of the Hockey East playoffs in the quarterfinals, losing a pair of one-goal games to Providence College, both of which the Black Bears could've won. But this was a team loaded with freshmen and sophomores, so those growing pains are going to be vital down the road.
Gendron is not Shawn Walsh or Scotty Bowman, but he's a solid head coach who Maine fans need to back. Now is not the time to act like a pink hat. We in New England have been spoiled with championship success in professional sports this century, so going through these tough Maine hockey times gives us a taste of what it's like to live in Cleveland or Buffalo.
Next season is no doubt an important one for Gendron with his Black Bears a year older. They will be good enough to get to TD Garden and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. And Gendron is the right man to lead Maine to Causeway Street and beyond.
It's time for Black Bear Nation to realize that, and realize Grant Standbrook and Jim Montgomery are not walking through the Alfond Arena doors.
Sidebar: I love Alfond Arena, but eventually it's going to have to be replaced. Venerable old barns are great in college hockey, but long-term, Maine is going to need a new arena someday. Maybe play hockey in the Cross Center in Bangor? Just a thought.