– It was a phone call that Jimmy Howard
certainly didn’t expect this summer, but one he was glad to receive.
Howard, along with five other former student-athletes at the University of Maine will be inducted into the Black Bears’ Sports Hall of Fame later this year.
“I wasn’t really expecting any phone call like that this summer,” Howard said. “When my former coach at the university, Tim Whitehead, called and told me about it, I was sort of shocked.”
Howard’s career at Maine was just as astonishing. The Red Wings’ goalie played three seasons for the Black Bears, capped by a tremendous sophomore season when he led Maine to the NCAA national championship game against the University of Denver in 2004. His sophomore year was also highlighted by a 63-save performance against Massachusetts in a triple overtime victory in the 2004 Hockey East title game.
“The first memory I have of playing for Maine was the first time I played in the rivalry game against the University of New Hampshire. It was so cool,” said Howard, the Red Wings’ second round draft pick in 2003. “I remember it was 1-1 heading into overtime and Marty Kariya scored about 20-seconds into overtime and the whole building just absolutely erupted. For the rest of the night the party light was on for the campus. That was my first experience where I was just blown away with college life.
“Obviously, the 63-save performance – pretty much my whole sophomore year was very memorable. I broke Ryan Miller’s goals-against in the NCAA. The whole run when we came up a little bit short was all a great experience.”
In 2004, Howard was an All-American, named to the Hockey East first-team, the conference’s all-tournament team and tournament MVP. He was also named All-New England and team MVP that season.
Howard holds NCAA records for single-season goals against average (1.19) and save percentage (.956), both set in 2003–04. He posted a 47-23-10 career record in a Black Bears’ uniform and his 15 shutouts is still an all-time career-best in school history.
Howard, who grew-up in Syracuse, N.Y., joined the U.S. National Development Team Program in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and eventually graduated from Pioneer High School, located across the street from the ‘Big House’ on the University of Michigan campus.
But part of his reason for choosing Maine over other colleges was that the landscape and community reminded him of his upbringing in Upstate New York.
“The greatest piece of advice that I ever received when I was picking schools was when I was told, ‘You’ll know what school’s for you when you step on campus and you feel like you’re home,’” Howard said. “And that’s exactly how it felt for me at Maine. The school is a close-knit community. You get to know a lot of people on campus, but it’s still big enough that not everyone knows your business.
“I have so many great memories and so many great people that I met and still keep in touch with. The three years that I spend there were very memorable. It was a lot of fun.”
A kinesiology major, Howard is about two semesters short of earning his bachelor’s degree. But he said the decision to leave school before his senior season wasn’t easy.
“It was so difficult. I remember it,” Howard said. “It was the day before school was to start at Maine when I signed. It was a very difficult decision for me. I was back and forth all summer long because I felt they had something special at Maine heading into my senior year and we had another shot. But it came down to me feeling that I needed a little bit more of a challenge.”
Howard will be inducted September 30 on the Orono, Maine campus.