He remembers walking to the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, where local fans were warning him and his colleagues that they were going to lose. He remembers the players warming up for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. He remembers the strategy sessions, the pep talks, and especially the celebration.
“We won the game, and the Detroit fans were crying around us,” says Madigan, who was a scout for the Pittsburgh Penguins at that time. “No one thought that we were going to win.”
His happiest memories are renewed every year at this time, and this year in particular. Three miles from his office, the Boston Bruins have seized a 1-0 lead over the visiting St. Louis Blues in the current best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final. Game 2 will be played Wednesday at TD Garden, the arena where Madigan’s Huskies have earned championships in the last two Beanpot tournaments.
“Winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate prize in our sport,” Madigan says. “To go in the locker room and be part of that celebration for the next four hours, with the players and the management and the ownership, it’s an experience that you never forget.”
Madigan has activated that experience. He has transformed it into a point of view that has elevated men’s hockey at Northeastern since he became head coach in 2011.
“When I went to Pittsburgh, they were going through a change of management and a new vision,” says Madigan, who joined the Penguins in 2006 after 13 seasons as a scout with the NHL’s New York Islanders. “The Pittsburgh Penguins talked about passion, work ethic, and accountability. Those three words are in our locker room right now at Northeastern. They have deep meaning for me and how we want to run the program. The players that are part of Northeastern, we want them to have those three elements.”
While Madigan was contributing to the transformation of the Penguins within three years, he was also learning how to develop his own program down the road.
“Just sharing that excitement and joy, and knowing that everyone has a little bit of a piece to play in the process of winning, was an amazing team-building exercise to go through,” Madigan says. “Xs and Os are important. But managing people is more important, and so is culture.”
Madigan played hockey at Northeastern in the 1980s, where he helped lead the Huskies to a pair of Beanpot titles as well as the NCAA Tournament Frozen Four. He continued to represent his alma mater even as he was working in the NHL.
As associate dean and director of development in the College of Business Administration in 2009, Madigan landed a major donation for Northeastern on the eve of the seventh game. The next day, in the hours after the Penguins had earned a 2-1 road win despite an injury to their team captain, Sidney Crosby, he found himself dwelling on the hard times that create the environment for success. Just one year earlier, he had seen the Penguins lose the Stanley Cup Final.
“I learned from losses, and the poise and composure they had,” Madigan says of the Penguins. “I learned that when you lose a big game, there’s another opportunity. So that now, when you’re in those championship games with Northeastern, and you have a bad period? Hey, guys, we still have an opportunity to turn the corner here. You gain that poise, that composure, to help your team see its way through some of those tough situations.”