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Boston Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman enjoys returning to Maine

FALMOUTH — On the 10th tee at Falmouth Country Club, Jeremy Swayman saw two fans and laughed with delight. The two men were wearing stitched-together hockey jerseys: Boston Bruins on one side, University of Maine on the other, all Swayman.

Swayman, who is now a goalie for Boston, is back in Maine for the Drive Fore Kids golf tournament. On Friday morning, Swayman played a relaxed round in the celebrity portion of the event. Throughout the round, Swayman stopped to sign autographs, pose for photos and chat with fans. The former Black Bears goalie, who finished second in the 2020 Hobey Baker Award as the best college hockey player, was excited about it all.

“I feel like I'm home. It feels like a homecoming for me. Every time I see the same fans and new fans. It's just amazing. They always tell me stories from when I was up there (in Orono),” Swayman said.

Four years after his last game in Maine, Swayman has earned a place among the NHL's best goalies. His .916 save percentage during the 2023–24 regular season was sixth-best in the league and his 2.53 goals-against average was ninth-best. In the playoffs, Swayman was even better. After sharing goaltending duties with Linus Ullmark during the regular season, Swayman started 12 of Boston's 13 playoff games and posted a .933 save percentage and 2.15 goals-against average.

Swayman, who is a restricted free agent this offseason, has made it clear that he would prefer to stay in Boston.

“I'll leave that up to my agent. I have a lot of great people on my side that I really trust,” Swayman said. “It's been widely shared that I want to be a Bruin forever, and I'm really looking forward to that, and I'm going to do everything in my power to make that happen.”

Boston Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman (right) reacts after Peter Horch (back to camera) sinks a putt on the fifth hole on Friday. Steve Whitney (foreground), Taylor Canaday (left) and Eric James (behind Horch) all played with Swayman on Friday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

In Swayman's eyes, all of his success as a professional can be attributed to his time in Maine, where he played for the late Red Gendron, who died on April 9, 2021, just days after Swayman made his Bruins debut.

It was Gendron who convinced Swayman, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, to come to Maine. Gendron flew to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where Swayman played on the junior team, on a Sunday afternoon to meet the goalie and his family. Other coaches from major programs talked to Swayman about playing times and preparing for the next level.

Not Gendron. Swayman remembers the conversation as the most healing, honest and truthful he ever had. It was the conversation that changed his life.

“He said, 'My priority is to make you a better person.' When my dad heard that, you can only imagine his reaction. I heard it too and said, this is different,” Swayman said. “For him, it was never promises. It was always an opportunity. The honesty and overall truthfulness of his words, that's what strikes me most.”

Swayman played for Maine for three years, and in 2020, thanks to his performance in goal, the Black Bears were on the verge of their first NCAA tournament since 2012. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic scuppered the tournament, and Maine did not return to the NCAAs until last season.

Boston Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman signs a jersey after playing the ninth hole at the Drive Fore Kids Golf Tournament at Falmouth Country Club on Friday. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

“That's something that still hurts to this day, that not knowing. That year was one of the best years of my life in hockey and in life in general,” Swayman said.

Swayman is still very close with Alfie Michaud, Maine's goaltending coach. Michaud was between the posts in 1999 when Maine won its last national championship. They talk at least once a week, Swayman said, and he enjoys hearing Michaud's assessment of the team. Swayman follows the Black Bears closely and tries to visit them when they have a game in the Boston area, if his schedule allows.

Swayman believes he has improved the most since leaving Orono is the mental side of the game. He knows that some days the puck looks like a beach ball and others it looks like a marble.

“It's always a glass half full attitude. When you concede a bad goal or a goal in general, what's the next save? That's all I care about. The next save, the next shot in key moments of the game that helps my team win,” Swayman said. “I think one of Red's best quotes was, 'You can't buy experience at Target.' And that's what I'm doing now. All these years I've been building that experience. I've been building it, building it, building it.”

He tries to get to Orono a few times each summer. He plans to go there in August to meet Michaud and skate with some of the current players who are on campus for the summer.

“I love touching the Alfond (ice). It's always nice to be back up there,” Swayman said.

When his round was over, Swayman sat in his golf cart for 15 minutes, signing autographs and meeting fans. It was an honor to be one of the most popular participants in a golf tournament that features superstars from sports and entertainment, he said.

But that's what happens when you come home.

Anna Harden

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