The remarkable shift in the culture of St. Lawrence Hockey can be traced back to the introduction of Mike McShane as head coach in the spring of 1980. Mike McShane grew up in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and starred for the University of New Hampshire Wildcats, graduating in 1971 having scored 139 points in 84 career games, finishing as the third leading scorer in UNH history.
But McShane easily could have been a Skating Saint, going so far as to interview with former Saints coach George Menard during high school, which turned out to be a quite unique experience.
“George Menard interviewed me at the old St. Lawrence Inn, and it was during hunting season, so naturally, he showed up in his hunting gear with his rifle, and everything, so that was interesting,” McShane says. “And at the end of the interview, he walked right off into the woods.”
While he ended up playing his college hockey at UNH, McShane certainly wasn’t scared away by the experience. After earning his master’s degree from Boston University, McShane began coaching at New Hampton Prep in New Hampshire, leading the Huskies to a 122-25-6 record in six years, before joining Dartmouth College as an assistant coach. After a pair of Ivy League titles and two runs to the NCAA semifinals in two years, McShane took over the helm as head coach at St. Lawrence.
Inheriting a team that had finished the previous year at 6-26, McShane faced an uphill battle. After a first year record of 15-16-2, a season McShane describes as one of the most fun he’s ever had, the Saints qualified for the ECAC playoffs in year two, at a time when only eight teams made the playoffs. Year three saw the Saints qualify for the NCAA tournament and post 23 wins, and although the team suffered injuries in his final two years, they remained competitive.
In his five seasons with the Saints, McShane posted a 93-65-6 record, but more importantly, established a culture of excellence and integrity. He also left behind Joe Marsh, and several classes that were instrumental in the Saints run to the 1988 National Championship game and won back-to-back ECAC tournaments in 1988 and 1989.
After the 1984-85 season, McShane took the head coaching position at Providence College, in the fledgling Hockey East. In nine seasons with the Friars, McShane went to a pair of NCAA Tournaments and won 20 games or more in four consecutive seasons from 1988-1992.
“Even though I was leaving, I knew the cupboards were stocked well, with the classes of 1988 and 1989, those two really propelled SLU to the Frozen Four and the national championship game, and I recruited both of those classes. I felt very proud of what we accomplished, even as I left,” said McShane.
“I always followed the St. Lawrence scores. I got to go up and watch the national championship game in 1988 in Lake Placid, and I spoke to the team after the game, I got to tell them how proud I was.”
After Providence, McShane moved to Norwich University, where he had remarkable and sustained success. In 23 years under McShane, the Cadets won four National Championships (2000, 2003, 2010, and 2017), 17 NEHC regular season titles in a row (1999-2015), and 19 overall, and earned 16 NCAA tournament appearances and reached 12 Frozen Fours. McShane was named New England Hockey Conference Coach of the Year 11 times, and is the winningest coach in Norwich history with a record of 497-130-38.
McShane retired from coaching after the 2017-18 season, a year in which the Cadets once again captured the NEHC regular season title. He captured his 11th NEHC Coach of the Year Award, and finished his Norwich career without a single losing season.
McShane lives in Montpelier, Vermont with his wife Shawn, and has two children; a son Daniel, and daughter Megan.