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Beyond the skating bench

When you think of UNH hockey, what is the first name that pops into your head? Chances are, it is head coach Dick Umile, who has been the face of Wildcats men’s hockey since 1990.

The Melrose, Massachusetts native has spent 31 years of his life at the university: four as a student-athlete, two as the assistant hockey coach and 25 as head coach, leading to an unbreakable bond.

“His life is UNH hockey,” said senior captain Collin MacDonald. “He’s had an unbelievable coaching career here, and he has a lot to show for it.”

Umile has earned various accolades throughout his tenure with the Wildcats, including six Bob Kullen Coach of the Year Awards, which are given to the top coach in Hockey East. No other coach in Hockey East history has claimed this honor more times. The next name on the list is former Boston University head coach, Jack Parker, with five. Umile’s 571-333-103 overall record puts him at the top of UNH’s all-time coaching wins list, and 15th all-time in the NCAA.

Despite his success, Umile remains humble and credits the players and coaching staffs that he has worked with.

“Those aren’t individual awards,” he said. “They are based on your team, and it’s because of your players and the guys that you coach with. It’s flattering when you get it, but it’s more about that team’s accomplishments. You end up getting an award for it, but it’s more of a team award. It just tells you how many good players we’ve had here at UNH.”

The veteran coach is known for his undying passion beyond the bench, and players tend to respond well to it. Mike Souza, associate head coach and former UNH hockey player, praised Umile’s coaching style and his treatment of players.

“Well obviously, he’s incredibly competitive,” Souza said. “He can be fiery, and his pride in the university transcends into the players, and I think the guys recognize that. He’s an easy guy to play for, and he’s a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve.”

Souza also noted that UNH hockey is like family to Umile, saying he cares about his players a great deal.

“He treats all of his guys as if they’re his own kids, and I think that in itself is a testament to the type of person he is. The way he cares for his players is second to none. There’s a lot of guys in this business, and I can’t think of another one that cares as much about his players as him,” Souza said.

After finishing his playing career and graduating from UNH as a physical education major in 1972, Umile got a teaching job. He coached at an elementary school for two years before moving on to Watertown High School for the next 11 years. There, he coached football, hockey and girl’s track, and was a biology teacher.

“I just loved teaching and coaching,” he said. For two of those years, he was also a scout for the St. Louis Blues.

His first collegiate coaching position came in 1985, when he served a brief, two-season stint as the assistant coach for Providence College, before making his return to UNH in 1988.

Umile has led the Wildcats to four Frozen Four appearances, 18 NCAA tournaments and seven Hockey East Regular Season Titles during his 25-year career. The team is coming off its worst season under Umile’s reign, finishing with an 11-20-6 overall record, but he has already turned his attention to next season.

“Hopefully we can get bigger, stronger and quicker,” he said. “We don’t have a season like that too often, and we’re all anxious to turn that around next season.”

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