Oct. 9—When Jamie Belleau decided to step away from coaching the Lewiston boys hockey team earlier this year, he said that he wanted to spend more time with his kids.
North Yarmouth Academy boys hockey coach Mike Warde didn't wait long before trying to lure Belleau back into coaching.
It worked for Warde, and Belleau will get back to work behind the bench, though now as an assistant to Warde at NYA.
"Well, after the announcement was made that he was stepping down, I picked up the phone and called him," Warde said. "And I think persistence paid off after a long time and, you know, obviously with his son (Michael) here, his daughter (Anna) is here now, too, so it all worked out."
Belleau reiterated that stepping down from being the head coach at Lewiston "wasn't based on lack of desire to continue coaching at that level, or a passion to coach at that level, it was more of family logistics."
"I wanted to spend time with them," Belleau said. "And then when Mike (Warde) called me shortly after resigning and asked me to coach, it was an easy decision in terms of my desire to be on the bench, right, and to participate, but it was something that I had to talk to Michael about first. And my wife and family."
Belleau had coached Michael from youth hockey all the way through his junior year at Lewiston, winning a state title in 2020 in their final game together. Michael then transferred to NYA and repeated his junior year — a common practice when students transfer to a prep school.
"(Michael) had a really good year last year repeating his junior year at NYA, and I certainly didn't want to get on the bench and participate at NYA if Michael felt uncomfortable about it or wasn't on board," Belleau said. "I discussed it with him, and without hesitation he said, 'Absolutely.'"
Warde said that adding Belleau to his staff is a no-brainer.
"(Jamie) is somebody that's done it all. The only thing he hasn't done, that I'm able to do, is obviously the recruiting aspect, but he's handled everything else," Warde said. "So, he will be leaned on in every shape and form for the best product on the ice and obviously the best product that we have for the school."
Not only will Belleau be reunited with Michael, but also Jamie's former college coach at Bowdoin, Terry Meagher, who is also an assistant on Warde's staff. Another assistant is Bill Galvin, who alongside his coaching career was previously the Senior VP of Sports Programming for CNN International.
Warde said Belleau's exact role and responsibilities are still under discussion, but he said the two chat every day.
"I'll give Jamie as much rope and as much say in any team personnel decisions. You know, whatever is going to make us better, we'll use (the assistant coaches) in any way, shape or form," Warde said. "The best thing is, is I think everybody's here for the kids, and nobody's here to use it as a stepping stone or a resume-booster or anything like that. I don't have an ego when it comes to this stuff, so we're excited for him to join us and he'll be involved in every decision."
Belleau saw the kind of coach that Warde is first-hand last season when Lewiston and NYA faced off three times.
"High-end coaching, high-end kids, from a character perspective, academic perspective and from a skill perspective. Lot of depth. Pretty much anybody who he's going to throw on the ice is a pretty good hockey player. And having coached (against) him last year, that's what I saw," Belleau said. "You know, I'm going to go there and support Mike and the school and its program and do what I can to help. But I also think some of the things that are important to me is finding the strength of your team and role-playing and getting everybody on the same page and working together as a team. It takes everybody on the bench to be successful, and kind of the philosophies that I've instilled and preached at Lewiston, and those are the same things I'm going to want to contribute to NYA and and hope that they can be competitive on a on a daily basis, despite the challenging schedule they play."
While Belleau is excited for the season, he and Warde both couldn't help reflecting on the fact that Belleau, a former Lewiston player and coach, is now a part of the NYA program, which was a former rival of Lewiston.
"My senior year at Lewiston in '89, we lost to NYA up at Orono in the state championship final in overtime," Belleau said. "And so it's kind of strange, kind of full circle, right, because certainly, born and raised in Lewiston, coached at Lewiston and played at Lewiston, I would have never anticipated coaching at NYA. And certainly it wasn't part of my plan. I was happy at Lewiston. It was a tough decision to leave Lewiston."
"(This new role is) kind of the best of both worlds for me," Belleau added. "I get to watch Michael play every game, but I get to participate by being on the bench. And really what a great opportunity for me to do that and and to finish off Michael's high school career by being able to participate. You know, I'm excited about that."
Belleau said there are other former Lewiston players on the NYA roster, as well as players from other area schools.