Madigan named inaugural recipient of first endowed head coach position


File photo by Brian Bae

Northeastern head coach Jim Madigan stands behind the bench in 2017 at TD Garden, where he hopes NU students will turn out in droves for the 2019 Beanpot.

Northeastern University Athletic Director Peter Roby announced Aug. 30 the creation of the university’s first endowed head coaching position in honor of Fernie Flaman, who coached at Northeastern for 19 seasons and was the longest-serving coach in university history.

Jim Madigan, who played under Flaman from 1981 to 1985 and has commanded the men’s ice hockey team since 2011, is the inaugural recipient of the Fernie Flaman Endowed Men’s Hockey Coach Fund.

“It’s an easy thing to talk about,” Roby said. “Honoring Coach Flaman, benefiting the program, being the first endowed position in athletics during the university’s history. This was all a good story to tell.”

Madigan said the funds, which total $2 million, will be used to better the Northeastern student-athlete experience through strength and conditioning, nutrition and student welfare programs in addition to recruiting and equipment funding.

Roby explained the funds will be released to the hockey program annually using a formulaic approach. He said the standard withdrawal from endowment funds is four percent annually, which would give the hockey program an extra $80,000 each year for the next 25 years.

“We felt like endowing coaches positions was really strategic and could be really beneficial because it has long term benefit,” Roby said. “It’s not like you’re just getting a donation that you get it in and turn around and spend it on things that you need but then that’s it. Anytime you’re thinking about an endowment fund, you’re thinking about the future as well as the present.”

In 1970, Flaman was named head coach of the Huskies. At the helm of the Red and Black, he amassed a 256-301-24 record and led the team to four Beanpot championships and a Hockey East championship.

“He spent 19 years of his life at Northeastern building a program,” Madigan said of Flaman. “It wasn’t easy those first 10 years, we didn’t have those resources and facilities and amenities. Those last nine years, 10 years we had them, and success followed.”

Flaman’s legendary career began in 1943 when he was signed by the Boston Bruins. According to the Boston Globe and the NHL, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1951 and went on to win a Stanley Cup with the team in his first year. He was traded back to Boston after three seasons and remained with the Bruins for seven more seasons, spending three of those years as captain. During his time in the NHL, Flaman played in five All-Star Games. In 1990, he was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame with 34 goals and 174 assists in 910 games. His 1,370 penalty minutes earned him the third spot in NHL record books for penalty minutes at the time of his retirement in 1964.

“He was a man that I respected, we respected,” Madigan said of Flaman. “He was a leader, but was as a coach a little bit intimidating because of his stature, not just his size but by being a National Hockey League player for a long time.”

Madigan’s relationship with Flaman transcended across lines of player-coach to colleague to friend. After graduating in 1985, he was hired by Flaman to serve as the assistant coach of the Huskies, a position he held until 1989. Now, Madigan instills lessons he learned from Flaman into his players years later.

“Fernie treated us like men,” Madigan said. “Sometimes we were acting like little boys, but he treated us like men and he wanted us to be responsible, accountable for our actions and our words. I try to do the same thing. We’ve got young men here from age 18 to 24 and our job is to prepare them not just for hockey after their four years, but life after four years. It was important for Fernie that we grew and developed as people so we could be productive husbands, fathers [and] workers in the work force. I know that I want to be able to teach our players and provide our players with the same values that Fernie provided us.”

Northeastern Athletics received a $1 million contribution from alumnus Bill Shea in 2014 that kickstarted the endowment fund, after which Roby and Madigan worked tirelessly to spread word of Flaman’s impact on the program and how an endowment would help ensure his legacy was not forgotten.

“People that provided the resources for this endowment fund knew Fernie and knew how much he meant to the program,” Madigan said. “I’m thankful for those donors who provided the valuable resource to allow us to have Fernie’s name associated with the endowment.”

In addition to financial gain, Madigan and Roby agreed the creation of an endowed head coaching position elevates the Northeastern hockey program in the eyes of fans around the region and the country. In addition to being the first position of its kind at the university, it is only the second endowed head coaching position in Hockey East. Boston College endowed their head hockey coach position in 2012.

“It makes a really strong statement,” Roby said. “I think it puts us in a different space. It’s the kind of thing that schools that have great reputations will have. Many of the Ivy Leagues have similar types of positions — it’s the stuff of Stanford and Princeton or Harvard and Yale and Dartmouth, and I think everybody would agree that’s pretty good company to keep.”

Madigan said he was honored to receive the university’s first endowment, especially due to the meaning carried in the fund’s name.

“It means an awful lot,” Madigan said. “Words can’t describe how fortunate I feel to have my name affiliated with his name and to know that his name will live in perpetuity with the hockey program.”