First-year Northeastern Coach Ben Smith is back home--in more ways than one.
A long-time area resident, Smith has returned--after a one-year absence--to college hockey in Boston.
After a one year absence from the land of the Beanpot, Smith now heads Northeastern's men's hockey program. And for a man with many years experience in coaching top hockey teams, rebuilding the Huskies (which finished a miserable 8-25-2 for the 1990-91 season) is a welcome challenge.
"I think that I have been very fortunate to have been involved with a number of schools which have given a lot of support to their hockey programs," Smith says. "All the schools I have been associated with over the years have treated hockey as an important part of their undergraduate scene."
He got his start, in fact, at one of the most hockey-crazed schools in the country--Harvard.
Smith, a 1968 graduate, represented the Crimson in the hockey arena for three of his four years as an undergraduate here at Harvard. He has fond memories of his time here, and especially of his coach, Cooney Weiland.
"Bill Cleary [current Harvard athletic director and former hockey coach] and I played under the same coach. Everybody thinks that Cleary was the master over here, but there was another master already there before him and he taught both of us."
Weiland, in fact, convinced Smith to start coaching. After graduation from Harvard, Smith served as an assistant at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for a year, and then, after a brief hiatus from athletics, returned to coaching at his hometown high school in Gloucester.
Smith then went south to New Haven for five years as an assistant coach. Yale had at the time just hired Tim Taylor, Bill Cleary's assistant at Harvard, to be their head coach.
"Yale had a stumbling program," Smith recalled. "They were at the bottom of the league when we went in, and in five years we won the Ivy League championships. So we had a pretty successful time down there."
After Yale, Smith returned to Boston, taking up the position of top assistant at Boston University.
In doing so he renewed a longstanding friendship with BU Coach Jack Parker, who played for the Terriers while Smith was with the Crimson.
Smith's nine years at BU included a one-year sabbatical to serve as assistant coach for the U.S. national hockey team in the 1988 Winter Olympics.
After helping bring BU to the Final Four in 1990, he accepted an appointment as head coach at Dartmouth, but soon returned to the Boston area for family reasons.
His year with the Big Green resulted in a disappointing 1-24-3 record for the rebuilding program.