It was another happy homecoming for Chris Bergeron.
Six months after returning to his alma mater as head coach, the Miami University bench boss was back at one more of his old stomping grounds Sunday.
The ex-Micmacs forward from Wallaceburg was at Chatham Memorial Arena to receive the Chatham Maroon Alumni’s Frank Uniac Memorial Achievement of Excellence Award.
Bergeron guessed he last visited the rink about 16 years ago to scout then-Maroons forward Ryan Jones, who’d become an All-American at Miami.
Bergeron, 48, called the arena home while playing for the Micmacs in 1988-89. The next season, Brian Wiseman set the Western junior ‘B’ scoring record.
“Anyone that played on a line with Brian Wiseman, good things were going to happen. And I was lucky enough to play on a line with Brian Wiseman,” Bergeron said, laughing.
He’s still good friends with Wiseman, who’s now an Edmonton Oilers assistant coach after eight years as a University of Michigan assistant.
“Brian Wiseman was a big reason I was able to have a good year in Chatham and go on and play on a scholarship down in the U.S.,” said Bergeron, who played two junior ‘C’ seasons with the Wallaceburg Lakers. “I’ll always be grateful to him for that.”
Bergeron played four seasons at Miami and seven in the pros before becoming a coach. After a decade as a Miami assistant, he was hired as Bowling Green’s head coach in 2010.
Bowling Green ended its 29-year NCAA tournament drought last season under Bergeron, who guided the Falcons to at least one playoff series win all nine seasons he was there.
But when Miami called with a job offer, he couldn’t say no.
“It’s hard to put into words what Miami has meant to me,” Bergeron said. “I loved Bowling Green. I loved my time there. It was really difficult to say bye to those players. I’d asked them to come to that place and give everything they had, which they did, and then I was turning my back and walking away. That was very, very difficult.
“But when I thought about why, it made it all kind of make sense. And I do think that this was an opportunity that I just didn’t think would come in my direction again. I didn’t think I could turn it down. As I reflect back, I think it’s because it was the one place that, if they called, would have my attention.”
Now that the hype from his hiring in April has died down, it’s time to focus on hockey.
“We’re back in Oxford doing what gets you out of bed every day, which is coaching,” he said. “I’ve had a chance to spend lots of time with the players and get to know them, not only on campus but the kids that are committed to Miami currently.
“I’m excited. It’s anxious excitement at the same time because you want to do well and I know that there’s work to do. But it’s time to get going. We start one week from today, so I’m looking forward to that.”
Taking the reins at Miami feels different than at Bowling Green now that he’s been a head coach.
“We kinda sorta know what we’re doing because we’ve done it for nine years,” he said. “And by no means do we have the answers, I don’t mean that. But when you’re a first-time head coach it’s difficult. As much as people give you advice on what to expect as a head coach, it’s almost like becoming a parent for the first time. You just have to live through it.”
Bergeron received the Maroon Alumni award for his success in his profession and his community. The previous winners are Wiseman (2016), Todd Warriner (2017) and Dave Torrie (2018).