Saturday, September 25, 2010

Metro coach reflects on pro career

Jason Cirone is one of several Central States Hockey League head coaches that has professional hockey on his resume.

He’s also the only coach with more than 1,000 pro games to his credit, including three games in the National Hockey League.

In looking back on his career that spanned from 1991-2008, Cirone couldn’t help but realize that all the games and all the traveling were all a blur.

“It all went by so quick,” said Cirone, now the Metro Jets’ bench boss. “I literally went all over the world to so many places that I never would have gone, and I owe all those experiences to hockey. I mean, I went on vacation to Egypt and Africa and also went to Moscow, Latvia, Poland, all over Europe. Going all those places was so amazing. Just amazing.”

In looking at Cirone’s career stats, he played overseas for pro teams in Italy and Germany, in Canada and in the United States as far east as Rochester, N.Y., as far west as San Diego and Long Beach, Calif., and all throughout the Midwest.

Cirone played in the International Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, West Coast Hockey League and the Central Hockey League. During his second-to-last season in 2006-2007 with the CHL’s Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, he was a player-assistant coach. That primed him for an assistant’s job the past two years with the Motor City franchise in the North American Hockey League and ultimately, in Waterford with the Jets,

Cirone’s crowning achievement, though, came during the 1991-1992 season when he earned two different recalls to the Winnipeg Jets (now Phoenix Coyotes) of the NHL. Winnipeg had drafted Cirone in the third round (46th overall) in the 1989 NHL draft.

“Playing hockey and getting to the NHL was all I ever thought about growing up,” Cirone said. “My father and mother supported me so much and I was your typical Canadian kid skating in the backyard rink. I’d get up at five in the morning and skate, then go to school, come home and skate until dinner. I’d be at the dinner table with my skates on and then I’d go back out until it got dark.”

His first call-up to the NHL happened while he was playing in Quebec for the Moncton Hawks in the American Hockey League. Cirone drove to the old Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, took the warmup with the Jets, but didn’t dress for the game against the Maple Leafs.

“When I got the call, you would think I would have been more like, ‘I finally made it to the NHL,’” said Cirone. “But it was nothing like that. I thought more about if I was ready and that I hoped I wouldn’t embarrass myself. Once I got to Toronto, I was star-gazing, for sure.”

He was sent back to Moncton after the game, but didn’t stay there long.

“We were in Fredericton (N.B.) and had got in around two or three in the morning,” remembered Cirone. “I was told I had a 7 a.m. flight to Chicago. I didn’t sleep that night.”

And while he didn’t record a point in his brief NHL career, Cirone did record 338 pro goals and more than 700 assists. Those totals also include six seasons in Italy, a country where he holds a passport, and he also played for the Italian national team in the 2006 Olympics on its home turf in Torino.

“To play for Italy, you have to play in the country for two calendar years and I did that,” explained Cirone. “Besides the hockey, it was a great experience being over there. My daughter speaks and writes Italian extremely well and my wife actually has a job now as an Italian translator. It’s more my dad’s country, but I was still very proud to play for Italy.”

The last few years of his career were what he expected, but not necessarily what he wanted to face.

“Guys were faster and younger and I was older and facing physical problems,” admitted Cirone. “It was a lifestyle change when I retired and my son still asks each summer when I’m going to start training. I’m very happy with what I accomplished and am excited to see where this season takes us.”


The Jets traveled to Cincinnati last weekend and came away with a split of their two-game series with the Queen City Steam.

Saturday night, newly-acquired goalie Eric Trunick (Commerce Township) made 41 saves in a 4-2 loss as Cameron Carolus tallied all four goals for Queen City.

Trunick was obtained from Cleveland last Friday for a future draft choice.

Matt Stirling (Dexter) and Dan Hudson (Gregory) scored for Metro.

“We finished the second strong and came out in the third and took the game to them,” Metro assistant coach Peter Flynn said. “We controlled the third, but then ran into penalty problems.”

Sunday afternoon, Trunick stopped 50 shots in a 7-4 win for the Jets, their first ‘W’ of the year.

“It’s good to get the first and good to see the guys put together a full game,” said Cirone. “They definitely earned the win and have finally seemed to have bought into what we’re trying to do here. We didn’t have one good line today; we had four good lines that were all over the ice.”

Mike Moroso (Macomb) and Tommy Kilgore (Pinckney) each scored twice, while Brian O’Loughlin, Tommy Burns (Pinckney) and Justin Bennett (Brighton) scored the others.

Brett Grech (Hartland) added three assists, Burns tacked on two helpers, and Bennett and Kilgore also added assists to have multi-point games.

This weekend, the Jets play just one game in heading to Canfield Arena in Dearborn tonight to play the Michigan Mountain Cats tonight at 7:50 p.m.

The Mountain Cats have won two of their first three games in their first season in the CSHL and also feature four former Jets players in forwards Erik Bachynsky, Paul Elezaj (Leonard) and Brad Tunesi (Sterling Heights) and defenseman Tyler Schofield (Clio).


In addition to Trunick, the Jets also added defenseman Andrew Shalawylo over the weekend. Shalawylo, an 18-year-old defenseman from Clinton Township, played for the Grosse Pointe Wild Midget AA team last season.


Former Metro forward Sean Hogan (1996-1997) was hired over the summer as a volunteer assistant coach with Western Michigan University.

Hogan coached the Yellowstone Quake of the Northern Pacific Hockey League last year and for four years before that guided the Oakland University ACHA squad, winning two national titles over that span. He also won a national title as an assistant coach with OU prior to assuming the head coaching reins.

Photo by Deanna Bradford

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