WATERFORD, MI – 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.”