Eric Michaud, of Auburn, will be taking the position head coach of the Maine Eclipse, the new junior hockey team in Biddeford in the Eastern Hockey League’s Premier league. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

A phone conversation led to a new job opportunity in Biddeford for Eric “Cheech” Michaud, who had been working with the Nordiques organization the past two seasons.

Now the 26-year-old from Auburn is the head coach of the Maine Eclipse team that will be playing in the Eastern Hockey League’s Premier league.  Michaud will also be assistant coach with the Eclipse’s Eastern Hockey League team.  Both EHL leagues are Tier III junior hockey leagues under the USA Hockey umbrella.

“I always had my eyes opened to job openings, but this wasn’t really posted,” Michaud said. “I was talking to Cam (Robichaud ,the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy U16 coach) loosely on the phone and he said there was a new junior team that’s coming to Biddeford, a Tier III team. It was funny the referee (John) Melancon, he’s good friends with Cam and told him about the job because he lives in that Portland-Biddeford area. So, I just emailed the (co)-owner and GM (James Ryerse), five minutes later he sent me a contract saying if you want to be a part of the organization, we are starting our framework in Biddeford.”

It’s been quite the offseason for the Eclipse franchise. Ryerse and co-owners Scott Brown (majority owner) and Patrick Cannon purchased the Philadelphia Revolution junior franchise and were set to relocate to Keene, New Hampshire. That plan ended when they couldn’t come to terms with the city of Keene to use the city-owned Keene Community Ice Rink. With the Maine Wild of the NA3HL — another Tier III junior league under USA Hockey — not operating at Biddeford Ice Arena this year, the Eclipse had the home they needed.

Michaud was an assistant coach and video coordinator with the L/A Nordiques of the North American 3 Hockey League during the 2018-19 season. This past season he was the video coordinator for the entire organization with the addition of the Maine Nordiques of the North American Hockey League and the Maine Nordiques Development Program, now known as the Maine Nordiques Prep Academy for the 2020-21 season.

He also was behind the bench for the L/A Nordiques the first half of the year before moving to the MNDP in January.

Prior to joining the Nordiques, Michaud was a volunteer coach with the University of Maine men’s ice hockey team

Ryerse was impressed with Michaud’s wealth of experience. Ryerse said he interviewed 40 candidates for the position but liked that Michaud was a local candidate.

“To have someone local who doesn’t have to move his family and friends halfway across the country was a very big factor in it,” Ryerse said. “At the end of the day, his conversation with me to start the (hiring) process was very good and then he moved onto the second hiring phase for us. Our second hiring person was excited with (Michaud) answers and he said ‘Hey you should probably jump on him before it’s too late because he will get scooped up.’ I said ‘OK, lets go.’”

The Maine Nordiques are happy to see Michaud get a head coaching opportunity but will miss having Cheech around with the work he did for the organization.

“He’s a first-class person. He’s a tremendous hard worker. He and I worked really closely together on the video every day for the NAHL group,” Nordiques NAHL coach Nolan Howe said. “He’s always someone who put the team first, whether that was going down to coach the U18 (MNDP team), working with the NA3HL team, helping the NAHL players get better. He wanted to be on the ice, he wanted to learn as a young coach. So, me personally, I am really proud of him, I am excited for him, he will always have a place with the Maine Nordiques as far as we will be there to support him.”

Howe said Ryan Shelly will be taking over Michaud’s role as the organization’s video coordinator in addition to being the Maine Prep Academy’s U18 assistant coach.

The Premier team where Michaud will be the head coach will be like a farm team for the organization, grooming younger players who need more seasoning before getting called up to the organization top team that plays in the Eastern Hockey League.

Michaud is excited to develop players for the EHL team using what he has learned with the Nordiques and his time with the University of Maine.

“Being with the Nordiques the last two-three years has been a great gauge for this level,” Michaud said. “Obviously I was at the University of Maine before that. I kind of know what it takes to get to the Division I level so I can kind of preach that and hopefully get the kids to prepare themselves for Division III or even Division I or higher levels of juniors. That’s the fortunate thing for me, I will be coaching the lower level EHL Premier League team, that will be team I will be head coaching and that will be a younger team. I have a chance to develop them and hopefully they move onto the EHL team or onward.”

Michaud will be Michael Grace’s assistant coach with the EHL team and Grace will help out as an assistant coach on the Premier team. Practices formally start this upcoming week and Michaud will make his head coaching debut on September 19 when the Eclipse take on the New Hampshire Avalanche on the road to start the regular season.


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