When applications started to roll in for the open video coordinator position with the Iowa Heartlanders of the ECHL, Lewiston native Eric “Cheech” Michaud’s resume stood out to assistant coach Derek Damon because of Michaud’s coaching experience with the University of Maine men’s hockey team.

Lewiston native Eric Michaud has been named the Iowa Heartlanders Coordinator of Video and Team Services after spending a year as a volunteer video coach with the Maine Mariners. Iowa Heartlanders photo

Damon, a Bangor native and a former St. Dom’s and University of Maine standout, started to connect the dots once he started talking to Michaud.

“It was one name I didn’t know,” Damon said. “Once I saw he was from Lewiston, I know his sister, but I didn’t know Eric. She was at St. Dom’s when I was there — she’s a lot younger than me. But once you start talking, you start connecting the names, it just shows how small the hockey world is.”

The two quickly hit it off and Michaud signed a two-year contract with the Heartlanders, based in Corvallis, Iowa, to be the Coordinator of Video and Team Services for the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. He begins his duties in late July.

Michaud, 28, spent much of the 2021-22 season with the Maine Mariners, the ECHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins, in a volunteer video coaching role.

“It’s just a niche for me,” Michaud said of being a video coach. “I just fell in love with it when I started coaching with UMaine and I have kind of ran with it. You can do so many more things with video, and it’s tied with analytics too. So I like to do special projects like that. I know with the Mariners this year, we did some special projects with the penalty kill and stuff like that.”


Before the Mainers, Michaud was named a head coach for the Maine Eclipse, a Tier III junior hockey organization based in Biddeford, in September 2020 before their first season. The organization folded at the beginning of the 2021-22 season.

Michaud started his hockey career with the Lewiston Maineiacs organization of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 2007-11, working in multiple capacities. He began coaching at the University of Maine as an assistant video coordinator from 2015-17, then joined the L/A Nordiques of the North American 3 Hockey League from 2017-19 as an assistant coach. He worked with the Maine Nordiques organization during 2019-20 in multiple capacities with the North American Hockey League team and 18U team.

General manager and head coach Gerry Fleming said Michaud fits into the Heartlanders organization.

“Eric’s drive, hard-working attitude and knowledge of the game will make him an important part of our culture,” Iowa head coach Gerry Fleming said in a Heartlanders press release. “This role is integral in taking our team’s on-ice performance to the next level. Eric will be around the team every day and work closely with Derek and I to compile, arrange and cut video in ways that are easily digestible.”

Damon knows Michaud’s experience working at Maine is invaluable.

“When he was at the University of Maine, he worked under some great hockey minds like the late, great coach (Dennis “Red”) Gendron, Ben Guite, Alfie (Michaud — no relation) and Jay Leach,” Damon said. “(Eric) was able to learn how to see the game from their perspective. He has a really good understanding of that, and he has been around hockey pretty much his whole life.”


Michaud also had other job offers for the upcoming season, but one aspect of the Iowa job stood out to him.

“One of the things with Iowa, for the reason why I took the job, is that I will be on the ice every day as kind of like a second assistant coach,” Michaud said. “That was kind of the main factor for why I picked Iowa, because I had a couple of other offers.”

Since starting as an assistant video coordinator with the Black Bears, Michaud has seen the position becoming much more of a need for hockey teams.

“I know NHL teams carry one or two (video coaches), for sure, and I know AHL teams are starting to carry one or two as well,” Michaud said. “That wasn’t always the case and ECHL teams didn’t always carry one. There’s so much information, and it’s all about finding what’s relevant — that’s kind of our job. The amount of information is what changed. When we first started the video coach, we were doing so much more work, but now the hard grunt work is done for us with all these computer software AI (artificial intelligence) stuff. It’s a little less time-consuming than it used to be.”


Derek Damon (standing) coaches from the bench during an Iowa Heartlanders game in the 2021-22 season. Iowa Heartlanders photo

Damon said he learned a lot in his first year in professional hockey as an assistant coach. He spent the 2020-21 season with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, a junior hockey team in the British Columbia Hockey League, as an assistant coach and the director of player development.


“Being able to work with Gerry, he’s my mentor and I learned so much from him this year; he’s one of my best friends,” Damon said. “It was an absolute dream-come-true being able to learn from him and coach with him. In the (ECHL), you wear many hats because you are doing daily transactions, managing the salary cap, and handling player housing and travel. You get your hands on so many aspects of a professional hockey organization.”

Damon played for Fleming with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL in 2006-08. The two kept in touch over the years.

The Heartlanders were an expansion franchise in 2021-22 and finished the season in last place in the Central Division with a 29-33-10 record, eight points out of a playoff spot.

Damon was in charge of Iowa’s power play, which converted at a 23.9% success rate and was fourth in the entire league, and its 65 power-plays goals were second in the ECHL.

Damon received a two-year contract extension and is now the assistant general manager in addition to being an assistant coach.

“It was a fantastic year, I really enjoyed it and reaffirmed my belief that I want to be in this profession and I love being in the game of hockey,” Damon said. “I am excited to have Eric here because I feel he’s going to fit in well with Gerry and I. Eric and I will work hand-and-hand and I think he sees the game really well.”

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