With summer here, the end of another intense sports year at the University of Maine is upon us. Now is when the top players move on to bigger and better things, like going to the professional leagues. Many players from all different sports at the University of Maine go on to the pros, so letís take a look at them.
Chad Hayes, former Maine Tight End, was a senior in 2001 and as a senior he served as a team captain. He caught 81 passes for 1,011 yards and 11 touchdowns during his career at Maine. Chad Hayes was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals to a two-year contract last week. He has had previous experience in the NFL however. He caught five passes for 53 yards for Tennessee in the 2003 preseason before being released. He has played in NFL Europe as well. Hayes played for Frankfurt this past spring and he caught 12 passes for 156 yards and 3 touchdowns in the regular season. In 2002, Hayes had a contract with the Kansas City Chiefs but was released in the preseason. Hayes, an All-American at Maine was a senior in 2001 and hopefully will find success in the NFL.
Todd Jackson, a former Maine hockey player, has also found his way into the big leagues. Jackson earned Second Team All-America honors and Hockey East All-Star honors when he played with Maine. He was named Hockey Eastís Best Defensive Forward as a senior captain and he also led the team with 21 goals including 5 power play goals and 5 shorthanded. He finished third on the team with 33 points and he led the team to the NCAA Championship game. Jackson played for four seasons at Maine where he played in 161 games, rankings sixth in all time games played at Maine. He scored 45 goals and had 54 assists for 99 career points at Maine including 9 game winning goals. Jackson was drafted in the eighth round by the Red Wings in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The Red Wings announced earlier this week that they have signed Jackson to a two-year contract. The three-time Maine scholar-athlete and three-time member of the hockey East Academic Honor Roll was a successful hockey player at Maine and hopefully will continue with his success in Detroit for the Red Wings.
Sticking with Professional hockey, the NHL finished the year excellent this year. A Stanley Cup that will be remembered. The Lightning won in 7 games in an excellent series. The Tampa Bay Lightning won their first Stanley Cup in a long time and it was well worth it. The Lightning were led by many star players, but they could not have done it without the great leadership of their coach, John Tortorella. Tortorella was a former University of Maine hockey player. He played with Maine for 3 seasons starting in the 1978-1979 season. He had 39 goals, 71 assists and 110 career points. He was a tough player and led the Black Bears in penalty minutes each season and currently ranks fourth on the career chart. Tortorella led the Black Bears in the year that they jumped from Division II hockey to Division I. They went 15-16-1 and during Tortorellaís senior year with Maine when they went 23-11-0 he was named twice to an ECAC All Star. After his career at Maine, Tortorella played in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League and also in Sweden. After that he gave up playing, and took up coaching. He was the general manager and Head Coach of the Virginia Lancers in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League where he was very successful. He then went to be the assistant coach of the New Haven Nighthawks in the American Hockey League. After that season, he became an assistant coach with the Buffalo Sabres and remained with the Sabres organization for a few years. He then moved on to the Phoenix Coyotes then to the Rangers and finally he joined the Lightning staff in the 2000-2001 season.
Maineís hockey program is a very successful one, and thatís why we have another player to talk about who has been signed to the NHL. Dustin Penner helped the Black Bears reach the NCAA Championship game and has had a very successful career with Maine. He ended this season with 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in his junior year. He scored the game-winning goal against Boston College in the semifinals and at the Maine Hockey Awards banquet last week, Penner was named recipient of the Jack Semler Most Improved Player Award. Penner was also very successful with Maine and was signed to a three-year contract with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
To finally get away from Maineís excellent hockey program, we move to Baseball. University of Maine baseball seniors Simon Williams and Mike MacDonald were both selected in the 2004 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Monday, June 7th. Williams was selected in the 11th round, 330th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals and MacDonald was taken in the 15th round, 447th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays. Simon Williams, co-captain of the 2004 Black Bears, was a key to the Black Bears outfield during the last four years. He played in 182 career games and batted .305 with 149 runs and 99 runs batted in. Williams has extraordinary speed and he stole a career-high 26 bases and finished his career with 65 steals. Mike MacDonald also had an outstanding career for Maine. His overall record was 25-13 with a 3.36 ERA. MacDonald was a very successful pitcher and he broke the career strikeout record finishing his career with 284 Kís. This season he was named America East Pitcher of the Year and he was named to the America East Second Team this season while earning America East All-Tournament honors. Whether these two go straight to the Majors or if they start off in the Minors, weíll be sure to be seeing them in the future.
The University of Maine has an excellent sports program and they output quality players year in and year out. These are just some of the players who have recently signed contracts. Look for more Maine players to go to the big leagues, as Maine continues their success.
You can e-mail Mike Marino at MichaelMarino@Earthlink.net