Derek Damon shoots the puck with Heilbronner Falken this past season. The Bangor native and former St. Dom’s and University of Maine standout recently retired after 14 seasons of professional hockey. Submitted photo

Derek Damon reached out to a fellow University of Maine Black Bears alum in search of starting his coaching career after calling it  a playing career following 14 seasons of pro hockey this past spring.

The Bangor native, who played two seasons at St. Dominic Academy and was a four-year standout with the Black Bears, is heading to British Columbia as the new assistant coach and director of player development for the Salmon Arm Silverback of British Columbia Hockey League — one of the 10 Junior “A” leagues under the Hockey Canada umbrella.

Salmon Arm is a five-hour drive northeast of Vancouver.

“I was looking at different opportunities, and (contacted) Bobby Stewart who played at Maine in 1999, who won at national championship,” Damon said “I got in touch with Bobby because he’s the director of player personnel for Salmon Arm and we started talking and it was kind of a good fit (and) we went from there. It was nice to have a Maine connection. Us Maine alumni, we seem take care of each other, which makes Maine hockey so great because of the family we have.”

Stewart scored the game-winning goal for the Black Bears in the 1999 national semifinal against Boston College before the Black Bears went on to defeat arch rival University of New Hampshire two days later to earn the school’s second national championship. He and Damon never crossed paths in Orono as Stewart played for the Black Bears from 1996-99 while Damon was on campus from 2001-2006.

The Silverbacks liked the pro experience Damon brought to the table.

“When we first heard that Derek was looking to transition into coaching, it was an easy decision. We had several calls from well-known hockey minds recommending Derek for the position,” Silverbacks general manager Brooks Christensen said in a team news release. “In my initial conversation with him, I knew right away he was on the same page as myself and the rest of the coaching staff. Anytime you can add a staff member with experience like Derek’s, it will not only help our organization, but the players he’s working with as well.”

The BCHL is one of the top NCAA Division I producing junior leagues in Canada. The Black Bears have three recruits playing in the BCHL last season in defenseman Xavier Henry (Chilliwack Chiefs), defenseman Tim Gould (Alberni Valley Bulldogs) and forward Matthew Osadick (Trail Smoke Eaters). The BCHL produced eight draft picks in the 2019 NHL Entry draft including forward Alex Newhook (Victoria Grizzlies), who now plays at Boston College) and went 16th overall to the Colorado Avalanche.

Damon feels the league is a good starting point for his coaching career.

“I am still uncertain where I want to go from here whether it be college or professional (hockey),” Damon said. “Coaching in the BCHL, it gives you an opportunity for you to see a lot of good kids,”Last year the BCHL turned out 188 kids to Division I (schools).”

“They turn out a lot of kids that go out that go out and get Division I scholarships,” he said, “and there are a lot of kids that are drafted into the NHL, so there are a lot of NHL scouts that come out to the games. It’s definitely nice to see a lot of these pro scouts and also the college scouts. It gives me time to see what I want and which way I want to go.”

Damon also runs a camp in Estero, Fla., where he lives in the summer, called the Southwest Florida Hockey Academy. He runs skill development training which is a part of what a director of player development does. He believes getting director of player development on his resume is key if one day he wants to go into pro hockey. NHL teams are now investing in player and skill development more the past few seasons.

Damon joins his high school linemates Greg Moore and Joe Dumais in the coaching ranks.

Moore, who started his coaching career in junior hockey with the US National Team Development Program, later became the head coach with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League and now is in pro hockey as the head coach of the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, the affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dumais, who started his college coaching career with the University of Connecticut in 2008, is currently the associate head coach at Quinnipiac University Bobcats, which heavily recruits the BCHL. Quinnipiac had 12 players on its roster last season who played in the BCHL prior to joining the Bobcats.


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