Meet the Jr. Comets Elite Team Coaches

Dec 1, 2015

When constructing the Jr. Comets Elite program, it was pivotal to surround the athletes with people that have had the experience throughout the years to properly develop each individual player; such an environment will help the elite teams achieve their goals this season and for seasons to come. This season’s Elite coaching staff is comprised of coaches that have a wealth of experience and knowledge at the high school, collegiate and professional level.

While surrounding the elite teams with a dedicated coaching staff, it is equally as important to mention the ammenities the elite teams have at their expense. Gary Heenan runs a weekly powerskating session for both teams on Monday nights. Heenan is able to teach each athlete the core principles and fundamentals to quickly develop the proper skating techniques for our young players. Following Monday’s powerskating, the 2004 Elite team takes advantage of the state of the art workout facility inside the Utica Memorial Auditorium, the same facility used by the AHL’s Utica Comets. Tuesday night’s practice is condensed to allow for a 30 minute shooting clinic for both teams. During this time, the skaters will work individually with the Elite Coaching staff while the goalies work with Rob Esche, former NHL goalie and 2004 Elite Head Coach.

The 2004 and 2006 Elite teams will continue to flourish and develop at the highest rate possible as each athlete continues to receive individual training from one of the most dedicated and experienced coaching staffs in the region. Meet the coaches:

Robert Esche, 2004 Elite team Head Coach

Rob comes to the Utica Jr. Comets elite program with a wealth of hockey knowledge after having an extremely successful career at the NHL and International level. Rob’s career started in the AHL with the Springfield Falcons before he got the call up to the Phoenix Coyotes, where he would stay from 1998 until 2002. Rob then took his career to Philadelphia, where he played for the Flyers from 2002 to 2007. He then finished his career overseas in Russia and Switzerland. During his playing career, Rob represented the United States on multiple occasions at the Ice Hockey World Championships and also at the 2006 Olympic Games in Torino.

Rob returned back to Utica after his playing career and was instrumental in bringing the Comets home (he currently serves as President of the organization).

Keith Veronesi, 2004 Elite team Assistant Coach

Keith is entering his second year of coaching in the Junior Comets organization. He hailes from Glastonbury, CT where he had an exstensive youth hockey career traveling the continent and competing in the highest levels youth hockey has to offer. He went on to play 4 years at Berkshire School in Sheffield, MA and then collegiately at Connecticut College. He captained his college team Junior and Senior year, leading them to the NESCAC playoffs.

Keith currently serves as the Vice President for the Utica Comets where he plays a large part in the daily operations for the team.

John Emery, 2004 Elite team Assistant Coach

This will be the first season for John as part of the coaching staff with the Utica Jr. Comets. John is well known in the area for his ability to develop players at a fast rate, making him an integral part of the organization. John was a local high school standout at Whitesboro before playing collegiately in the SUNYAC for Potsdam. John went on to have a professional career in the Colonial Hockey League’s Utica Blizzard.

John is a level 4 USA Hockey certified coach and has been coaching locally since 2004.

John Massoud, 2006 Elite team Head Coach

John will be the head coach for the 2006 Elite team this season – also his first season with the Utica Jr. Comets organization. John grew up locally in the area playing for the New Hartford youth program and then at Northwood Prep in Lake Placid before having a standout career at St. Lawrence University. After his college career, John played professionally for the Utica Blizzard, allowing him to pass along advice and experiences to his team. John will serve as an important figure in the organization and is responsible for continually devoping the organization’s youngest players.

Randy Smith, 2006 Elite team Assistant Coach

Randy comes to the Utica Jr. Comets Elite organization after a long coaching career in New Hartford. He has experience coaching an array of levels, from Mites to Bantams, and has had many of his players go on to win New York State Championship titles.

Randy played high school hockey at Whitesboro, where he was the captain of the team in his Senior season. He then went on to play collegiately at MVCC, again captaining the team in his senior year. Randy is also the son of Borden Smith, who played many seasons with the Clinton Comets and has his name and number hanging from the rafters in the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

Gary Heenan, Utica College Men’s Ice Hockey Coach and Elite team Powerskating Coach

Although Gary will not hold a coaching position within the organzation, he does run the weekly powerskating session for both Elite teams. Gary is entering his 15th season as Head Coach of the Utica College Pioneers where he has compiled a record of 192-136-38. Prior to his successful coaching career, Gary played collegiately down the road at Hamilton College.

Gary will be leaned on to develop each athlete and teach the fundamentals of powerskating, as well as many other facets of the game.

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