Shawn Walsh, former head hockey coach at the University of Maine, looked on from the bench on March 3, 1993 as his Black Bears skated to their first ever national title. Three months and a day later, Walsh would get a chance to celebrate another milestone — the birth of his second son Travis.
Travis Walsh was born on June 4, 1993 in Bangor, Maine, only 11 miles outside Orono, Maine —home to his father’s Black Bear hockey team. Travis Walsh grew up in a hockey family, as he is not only the son of Maine legend Shawn Walsh but also the grandson of former MSU Hockey coach Ron Mason. However, Travis’ time with his father would be cut abruptly by his father's battle with cancer in 2001.
“I was eight years old, and I was actually living in Dimondale, Mich. at the time,” Travis Walsh said. “I came home from school and the whole family was there and they told my brother and I.”
What they told Travis and his eldest brother Tyler, was that their father had lost his battle with a rare form of cancer — renal cell carcinoma.
“I was only eight so it didn’t really hit me right away like it did my brother,” Travis Walsh said. “When I got a little older that’s when it started hitting me.”
Though his father has passed, he still remains Travis’ hero, and Travis still carries his father’s positive attitude and commitment to hard work. Now, 14 years since the death of his father, Travis Walsh will have the chance to take on his father’s former team, when MSU takes on Maine on Friday night.
“I have a great respect for his dad, so does Red Gendron, Maine’s coach,” MSU head coach Tom Anastos said. “When he reached out to me to bring Travis out to Maine to play, that’s the real reason we went.”
It was an opportunity Anastos couldn’t turn down for his defenseman — and now Travis Walsh will have the chance to honor his father on Friday when he returns to Maine. When Travis Walsh found out from Anastos, he couldn’t contain his joy.
“I just was real excited and kinda surprised,” Travis Walsh said. “I was really excited and just grateful he was giving me the chance to play against Maine.”
While the Spartans won’t be playing in the same rink this weekend that Shawn Walsh coached his Black Bears in, the fact that Travis Walsh would even be in Maine to play was enough for him.
“Obviously it means a lot going back there and finally getting to have a little bit of connection with my dad and his program,” Travis Walsh said.
There is no doubt in the significance of this trip for all parties involved. Travis Walsh’s eldest brother, Tyler Walsh is a student video coach for the hockey team at Maine, and part of his family still resides there. Friday night will be an emotional night for all involved.
“It’ll just be pretty emotional to play,” Travis Walsh said. “Just playing against Maine will be emotional for me and my family, before the game and stuff like that, but it'll be fun.”