Leave Tim Whitehead alone.

Whitehead accepted his nightmare job in 2001, succeeding the late Shawn Walsh as head coach of the University of Maine hockey program.

It’s right up there with trying to follow Bear Bryant at Alabama, Adolph Rupp at Kentucky or Jerry Seinfeld on NBC. You’re not merely trying to survive every season in the nation’s best conference. You’re competing with a larger-than-life ghost whom the wealthy alumni still regard as Jesus Christ Superstar.

Are you listening, Billy Donovan?

Much to the consternation of roughly five angry Orono graduates who can’t find any real work to fit their psychology degree, live in their mother’s basement and are married to the World Wide Web, Whitehead hasn’t been perfect.

Yeah, all he’s done is keep a tradition alive, win or tie three out of four games and contend for a national championship every year. The slacker!

Maine is two games away from its third NCAA title since 1993 and its first since Walsh succumbed to kidney cancer. The Black Bears battle Michigan State on Thursday. If they win, Boston College or North Dakota awaits Saturday.

Whitehead has steered four of his six teams to the Frozen Four, losing two national title games by a goal.

Sadly, a third banner floating above Alfond Arena won’t appease the shut-ins. Happily, Whitehead affords his hecklers all the attention of rats in the Zamboni room.

“It doesn’t matter what I do to the four or five guys on the internet who are going to do what they do,” Whitehead said. “Occasionally it bothers my wife. What matters to me is how we feel here as a team at Maine. I have players who respect me. We have coaches who respect our players. That (criticism) is just life. You’ve got to roll with things.”

Roll, he has. Whitehead has established himself as an elite coach at an elite program, in an era when NCAA hockey is stronger and deeper than ever. Ask Notre Dame how much it enjoyed playing Alabama-Huntsville in the first round.

And let’s not revise history just because we’re afraid to speak ill of the dead. There were dark days in the Walsh regime. The six years between national titles were rife with investigations and academic disasters, ultimately leading to Walsh’s lengthy suspension.

There are no smudges on the Whitehead record. He deals with disciplinary problems when they happen. His players are students first. He is, simply, a credit to college athletics. Oh, and he perennially puts his team in position to skate into the Promised Land

No middle ground. Either you recognize those facts and esteem Whitehead as a winner or a keeper, or you’re a whining, blithering idiot hiding behind a discussion board nickname.


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