Jim Montgomery, the former University of Maine captain and Dallas Stars coach who spent the last two years as a St. Louis Blues assistant, will be named head coach of the Bruins in the coming days, a source with direct knowledge of the process told the Globe on Thursday.
That came amid multiple reports of Montgomery’s impending hire, including one from from ESPN’s Kevin Weekes, who said the deal being discussed for Montgomery will be for three years at $2 million per year.
The Bruins’ brass, headed by general manager Don Sweeney, has spent three-plus weeks hunting for their next coach after Sweeney fired Bruce Cassidy on June 6. Cassidy was swiftly scooped up by the Golden Knights.
Not unlike Cassidy, who waited 12 years to get his second shot at an NHL gig, this is a second chance for Montgomery.
The 52-year-old was considered a rising star when he lost his first head coaching job in December 2019. His Stars were playing well, turning a slow start into a 17-11-3 mark, when Dallas general manager Jim Nill fired him. The circumstances surrounding the move were mysterious until the following month, when Montgomery revealed he was undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse.
The Stars had been aware of Montgomery’s struggles — while coaching at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2008, Montgomery was arrested for driving under the influence — and Montgomery stated the club made “an appropriate call” in firing him.
Montgomery was 60-43-10 with the Stars. He took them to the second round in 2019, where they lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Blues. They were a Game 7 double-overtime goal away from reaching the Western Conference Final. Interim coach Rick Bowness, formerly of the Bruins, took them to the Stanley Cup Final the following season.
Montgomery entered rehab shortly after his dismissal. He returned to the bench in September 2020 as an assistant in St. Louis. It was a sensible move for his family: His wife, Emily, is reportedly from there (the family has four children), and Montgomery started his NHL career in that city. But the opportunity only arrived because of his sobriety.
“I always used to say in Denver when players were suspended, ‘They didn’t do the right thing.’ Well, I didn’t do the right thing and sometimes, it takes an unbelievable breakdown to have an undeniable breakthrough,” Montgomery told the Denver Post in October of 2020, noting he was 10 months without a drink. “Right now I’m a much better person and I think I’m going to be a much better coach because of everything that’s happened.”
Montgomery said changing his life was difficult at his age (then 51), but he made a necessary commitment.
“When you live in a lifestyle of being grateful and being of service to others, it’s incredibly empowering,” he told the Post. “You do that as a coach. And now I’m applying what I was really good [at] as a coach to my everyday life and my personal life.”
Born and raised in Montreal, Montgomery emerged as an NHL prospect during his four seasons at Maine. He was a three-time Hockey East all-star, and captained the 1993 NCAA championship team that included future Hall of Famer Paul Kariya, and goaltenders Mike Dunham and Garth Snow. The Black Bears went 42-1-2 overall that year, and won the Hockey East title after going 22-1-1 in the league.
In the national title game, Montgomery produced one of the clutch performances in NCAA history, scoring three third-period goals in a 5-4 comeback win over Brian Rolston and Lake Superior State. He was named most outstanding player of the tournament.
Montgomery finished his college career as Maine’s career scoring leader (103-198–301). His No. 19 was retired by the program.
Undrafted, he signed with the Blues and had a promising rookie season (6-14–20 in 67 games), but spent most of his 12-year pro career bouncing around the minors. He played in 122 NHL games (9-25–34), including short stints with the Canadiens, Flyers, Sharks, and Stars.
With Montreal, he was briefly teammates with Patrick Roy, who remains a friend. With Philadelphia, he was credited with coining the “Legion of Doom” nickname for the line of John LeClair, Eric Lindros, and Mikael Renberg, thanks to a quote of his that was printed in the Philadelphia Daily News.
Montgomery’s start in coaching came as a volunteer Notre Dame assistant in 2005-06. He spent the following four seasons as an RPI assistant, then became a head coach for USHL Dubuque in April 2010.
He guided the expansion Fighting Saints to a USHL championship in 2010-11, and repeated the feat two seasons later. That second Clark Cup earned him the top gig at the University of Denver.
In five seasons under his watch, Montgomery’s Pioneers earned two Frozen Four bids (2016-17) and a national title game appearance (2017, when he was named NCAA coach of the year).
The Stars named him head coach in May 2018, then made the playoffs for the first time in three years.
The Bruins are hopeful he can turn a second chance into sustained success.