In a move that provides continuity in pursuit of the highest goals, Northeastern has elevated Jerry Keefe as the 11th head coach of the men’s hockey program.
Keefe replaces Jim Madigan, coach of the Huskies’ resurgence for the past decade, who on June 17 was named director of athletics and recreation. Keefe, who served as the Huskies’ associate head coach since 2014, takes over a program that has won the last three Beanpots while earning three NCAA tournament appearances and two Hockey East titles since 2016.
“This was my dream job,” says Keefe. “I knew I had to be patient and hope that someday I was going to get the opportunity. For me to have the opportunity now to lead this program, it just means the world to me and my family.”
Keefe has played a leading role in the recruitment of Adam Gaudette (winner of the Hobey Baker Award as the top national player of 2017-18), Cayden Primeau (the 2018-19 Mike Richter Award winner as the nation’s top goaltender), and other Huskies stars. He was an assistant with the United States National Junior Team that won a silver medal at the 2019 World Junior Championships.
Keefe takes over a team with high expectations for 2021-22 around a roster of nine NHL draft picks that includes defenseman Jordan Harris, forward Aidan McDonough, and goaltender Devon Levi, who led Canada to the final of the 2021 World Junior Championships.
The expectations, said Harris, are “high as they can be: national championship, Hockey East championship, Beanpot—everything. We have a great group coming in and a lot of great players returning.”
The Huskies are coming off a 9-9-3 season that was mired by injuries and COVID-19 protocols. Keefe, who was in charge of the Huskies’ power play that ranked third nationally (26.9 percent), will be as hungry as his players to return to contention.
“We all trust him,” Harris said. “He’s an intense straight-to-the-point guy. He cares for all of us, he wants the best for his team, and he likes to compete. I think he’s perfect for our group.”
Several current and former players attended a press conference at Matthews Arena on Thursday to formally introduce Madigan and Keefe in their new roles.
“I was super excited for coach Madigan to be the A.D. because I know how much he means to the school,” said Jeremy Davies, a star Northeastern defenseman for three seasons (2016-19) who plays for the NHL’s Nashville Predators. “And I had no doubt that coach Keefe would take over—just the commitment he’s shown to the program the past decade, the partnership he’s had with Madigan, his knowledge of the game overall, and the success that he’s had here in terms of coaching, recruiting, and winning championships. I knew that he was ready for this job, and everyone is excited to watch the team play next year under him.”
Keefe was born in Billerica, Massachusetts., and was the state player of the year in 1993. As a center at Providence College from 1996 to 2000, Keefe generated 98 points in 102 games. He played professionally for five years, including two seasons in Europe.
After Madigan was named Huskies’ head coach in 2011, he hired Keefe, who had been an assistant at Brown the previous two seasons. Keefe had been an assistant at University of Massachusetts Boston (2006-07) and head coach at Westfield State, where he resuscitated a dormant program in 2008-09.
At the press conference on Thursday, Madigan recalled how their search for talent led them to a late Friday night game at a near-empty arena in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in what was their second year together—a night when Madigan realized that Keefe was “fully invested” in rebuilding the Northeastern program. Then Keefe brought up a memory of his own from 2016, when the Huskies won the Hockey East championship: As they were celebrating that night, Madigan had brought up Keefe’s initial prediction that it would take five years to build the program “the right way.”
With that history of faith and achievement, of pushing hard together in fulfillment of their shared dream, it was, said Madigan, “a no-brainer” to hire Keefe as head coach.
“We’re fully expecting to have a big year next year,” Keefe said.
Hearing that, Madigan couldn’t help himself. He turned with a big grin to face his successor and said, “How many wins, coach?”
Keefe put on his game face. “One at a time,” he said.