Maine Hockey Journal

Whitfield, Michaud join Pirates coaching staff

Pirates -- LogoPORTLAND – The Portland Pirates added a local flair to its coaching staff on Monday for the upcoming season.

Trent Whitfield was named an assistant coach while Alfie Michaud goaltending coach for the 2014-’15 season. Both are on one year contract.

“We’ve been able to identify two guys that would have been qualified to coach anywhere in the league,” said Pirates Chief Operating Officer Brad Church. “We’re lucky enough to bring them on board here where they do have that history with the team and state.”

Michaud, 37, a former goaltender with the University of Maine, recently retired from professional play after spending the last five seasons with Sønderjyske of the Metal Ligaen, the top professional league in Denmark, where he was perhaps one of the league’s top goaltenders. During his time in Denmark, he led his club to three league championships, three Danish Cup trophies [a tournament that includes every teams in Denmark], as well as a bronze medal in the 2011 Continental Cup finals [an international club tournament in Europe] in Minsk, Belarus.

Prior to his professional career, Michaud was a standout netminder in Orono, leading the Black Bears to the 1999 NCAA Division I Men’s National Championship where he stopped 46 of 48 shots in a 3-2 overtime win against the rival New Hampshire. He earned the Most Outstanding Player Award for the tournament, stopping 121 of 128 shots in four games in net for the Black Bears. In three seasons in Orono, Michaud finished with a 60-26-7 record before leaving to join the Vancouver Canucks organization in 1999-’00.

Pirates’ GM and Head Coach Ray Edwards said that Michaud popped up on the radar after the Portland Junior Pirates were prepared to hire him to work with their USPHL U18 team.

“The (Jr. Pirates) were looking to hire a guy for their U18 team and it was just perfect situation for them and for us because we wanted to hire someone to work with the goaltenders,” said Edwards. “He met with (Goaltending Coach) Sean Burke and had a good conversation. Alfie was the guy that was going to be here every day and want to get his foot in the door as far as coaching. It was a really good fit by both organizations in finding these guys with Brad and Ron.”

Michaud primary role will be to work with the goaltenders in Portland this season. It’s expected that Mark Visentin, Mike Lee and Louis Domingue will all return to the Portland, fighting for two roster spots on the team.

For Trent Whitfield, he coming back to a familiar place and although he won’t be on the ice playing this season, his role with the Pirates will similar to what he’s already been doing for the last several year’s according to Church and Edwards.

“In his 16 years as a pro, he wore a letter on jersey for 12 of those years,” Church said. “He has natural leadership qualities. It’s been part of his game during his career whether it was in Peoria or in Providence. Both St. Louis and Boston saw qualities in him that were going to help there prospects directly. By having a winning environment and leadership of someone like Trent inside the minor league dressing room it creates a positive culture for these kids to grow up in.”

Whitfield is retiring after a 16-year career that saw him play 801 games in the AHL with Portland Pirates, Peoria Rivermen and Providence Bruins. He also appeared in 194 National Hockey League games with Washington Capitals, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins and was part of their Stanley Cup team in 2011.

He spent last season over in Italy, playing for HC Bolzano where his team claimed Erste Bank Eishockey Liga title as the champion of the Austrian Elite League.

Whitfield, 36, was drafted by the Bruins in 1996, but played his first professional games with the Pirates beginning in 1998 after the Capitals signed him to an entry-level contract. The Alameda, Saskatchewan native spent the next seven seasons in the Capitals organization shuttling back-and-forth between the nation’s capital and Portland. Whitfield ranks fourth all-time in franchise history in games played at 348. He also ranks fourth all-time in goals (102), assists (153), and points (255).

Edwards said Whitfield’s primary role with the Pirates will be with the forwards, while John Slaney will continue to work with the team’s defense. Portland had five rookie forwards on the roster last season including Tobias Rieder and Lucas Lessio. This season, Whitfield will likely be working with Dan O’Donoghue, Tyler Gaudet & Greg Carey as just a few of the rookie forwards on the roster this season.

“I felt like it was important to get a guy to help manage and coach the forwards,” said Edwards. “That will be his primary role. He’ll be on the bench with us. He’ll dig in with our forwards and especially with our younger forwards.”

Whitfield’s hire came about during a discussion between Church and Edwards about the direction the Pirates wanted to take in hiring a new assistant coach. Those talks began mid-season after Phoenix Coyotes, Portland NHL parent club fire former assistant coach Mike Minard due to inappropriate conduct involving a minor.

“I pulled Brad aside and asked if Trent would be interested (in coaching),” said Edwards. “Sure enough he was. We got in touch and Trent came to town for a 24 hr period. We spent some good time together and had some really good conversations.”

Whitfield is considered a blue-collar style of player and those who often played with him or against him spoke highly of his work ethic on and off the ice. He was recognized several times by the Pirates for just that work ethic.

Whitfield, who was captain of the Pirates in 2004-’05, led the team in scoring that season by posting 54 points (16G, 38A) in 67 games and was selected as the team’s MVP as well as being selected by his teammates as the winner of the Players’ Player Award, an award he also won in 1999-’00.

In 2002-’03, Whitfield was voted as the recipient of Tom Ebright Award, an award named for the late Pirates’ owner and handed out annually to player that best exemplifying what it means to be a Portland Pirate. He was also a fan favorite as they selected him to both the Portland Pirates 10th Anniversary and 20th Anniversary All-Time Teams.

“The one thing that Trent always did was he played the game the right way. He was a man of integrity and never cheated the game. He can bring a real good attitude and wealth of knowledge to our players,” said Edwards.