Friday, September 17, 2010

Cirone 'fortunate' to be coaching Jets

WATERFORD, MI – When Jason Cirone played his final junior hockey game for the Windsor Spitfires back in 1991, he sat in his locker room stall after the game and wondered what was next.

Fast-forward to the spring of 2008 and Cirone was again sitting in the locker room wondering what was next. His Italian national team had just been eliminated from the World Championships by France and for the first time in his career, Cirone wasn’t upset about a season coming to a close.

“That’s when I knew it was time,” said Cirone, now the Metro Jets’ head coach. “Nobody had ever said anything about retiring, but as I sat there in Quebec City, I had a sense of accomplishment. I had been asked to play another year in Flint (with the since-folded Generals of the International Hockey League), but my family had given enough of themselves to me that it was time to give back. When I told my wife, Kristen, that it was over, we argued back and forth and even now, my son asks me every summer when I’m going to start training.

“It’s been quite a lifestyle change since I retired, but it’s better for all of us. In hockey, you tend to be selfish a lot, but at the end of the day, your family is always there to give you endless love. For hockey, as I got older, it was harder to keep up and the physical strains were getting to be too much. I can honestly say that I have no regrets.”

When Cirone was about 10 years into his pro career, he set himself a goal that may have seemed farfetched at the time, but came to fruition at the 2008 World Championships. And it didn’t involve playing in the NHL, even though he did play three games for the Winnipeg Jets in 1991-1992.

“I always said that I wanted to play my last game close to home and I wanted that to be in Canada,” said Cirone. “I was fortunate in that both happened at the same time.”

Now behind the bench as a rookie head coach, the 39-year-old Toronto native has brought his no-nonsense style of coaching to the team and hopes to turn around Metro’s fortunes. Cirone started coaching the season after he retired and has brought valuable experience to Lakeland Arena.

“I was actually running a gym and the Motor City Machine (now Metal Jackets) had a coaching change in the middle of the season and the assistant there, Sean Clark (also a former Metro assistant coach), gave me a call and asked if I wanted to be his new assistant,” explained Cirone. “Then when the team changed ownership last year and brought in David Cole, I was fortunate enough to be retained for that following season. I wouldn’t have had the chances I’ve had if certain people wouldn’t have given me the chance – guys like Sean and (Metro owner-GM) Butch (Wolfe) here. I’ve just been very fortunate. Hockey has done so much for me that now, it’s time for me to give back to hockey.”

Giving back to hockey is one thing, but giving back to his family is just as important. Married for 16 years to Kristen (they eloped to Las Vegas in March 1994 while Cirone was finishing up the season with the IHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones), the couple has a 12-year-old daughter, Brooke, and a 10-year-old son, Mason.

“I give a lot of credit to my family, especially Kristen, for dealing with me being on the road playing so much,” Cirone said. “She’s a good woman and a great mom.

“Like I said, it’s time for me to give back.”

Watch for Part 2 of this extensive look at Jason Cirone in next week’s release.


The Jets opened their 22nd season in the CSHL last weekend with two losses.

Saturday night at home, the Cleveland Jr. Lumberjacks topped the Jets, 1-0, in a very tight game.

Allan Dowler (Oxford, Ohio) stopped 24 shots between the pipes for Metro and the Jets also held Cleveland scoreless in four power play chances.

Then Sunday afternoon, the Jets suffered a 7-2 setback on the road to the Toledo Cherokee.

Metro captain Mike Corder (Warren, Mich.) and Dan Hudson (Gregory, Mich.) scored late third period goals for the Jets, while Dowler and Mitchel Leist (White Lake, Mich.) combined for 38 saves in goal.

“There’s a lesson to be learned in every game,” said Cirone. “Saturday night, we worked hard, but didn’t win. I can’t say I was satisfied we lost, but we did play Cleveland hard. Sunday was just the opposite.”

This weekend, the Jets travel to suburban Cincinnati to play a pair against the Queen City Steam, a team that split their opening weekend with the Chicago Hitmen. Zach Olson had a three-point weekend for Queen City with a goal and two assists, while Matt Leon and Oliver McNeill each played a game in net and fared well.

Queen City coach Don Biggs is a former teammate of Cirone’s and to play against each other’s teams should be a special experience for both.

“Biggsy was one of the best captains I ever played for,” said Cirone. “Once I got older and became a captain, I incorporated certain tendencies he had as a captain into the way I was a leader. All I’ve heard about his team now is that they work extremely hard. This weekend will be a big measuring stick, but if they work as hard as I hear they do, I would hope our guys would see that and realize what can happen when you work hard.”

Last season, Metro split with the Steam in Cincinnati in early December and was also swept in two separate home games at Lakeland Arena.


Rookie forwards Matt Stirling (Dexter, Mich.) and Justin Bennett (Brighton, Mich.) will serve as alternate captains this season under Corder, now in his second season with the ‘C.’ … Leist is the second-youngest player in the CSHL this season. He doesn’t turn 16 under Oct. 29. Only Peoria Mustangs forward Josh Maciejewski (Sept. 20, 1995) is younger … Rookie defenseman Brian O’Loughlin (Franklin, Tenn.) is the first Tennessee native to play for the Jets since forward Matt Noe (Brentwood, Tenn.) played 31 games during the 2008-2009 season … Metro added defenseman Morgan James (Commerce Township, Mich.) this week and also acquired forward Tommy Burns (Pinckney, Mich.) from Flint for an undisclosed draft pick next year.


Jon Cooper, the head coach of the Jets’ 2001-2002 Silver Cup national Junior B championship team, led the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers to the Clark Cup last spring and then was hired in the offseason to coach the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals, the top affiliate of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.

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