When it comes to youth hockey coaches, there may not be a better group than what the Jr. Comets have. The Jr. Comets boast nine coaches who have played NCAA Division I/III and/or professional hockey. That staff includes Comets’ president Robert Esche, (NHL/KHL, U.S. National team), Adam Pawlick (SPHL, NCAA DI), Jon Ames (ECHL, NCAA DI, DIII), John Massoud (Colonial Hockey League, NCAA DI), Jason Bonsignore (NHL, AHL/IHL, ECHL), Patrice Robitaille (IHL, WCHL, UHL, NCAA DI), Kris Smith (NCAA DIII), and Scott Kurdziolek (NCAA DIII).
Director of the Jr. Comets Bill Horton, who himself was signed in the now-defunct IHL and played three seasons overseas between The Netherlands and Finland before settling into his previous role as Scouting Director for the Prince George Cougars of the WHL, thinks having so much experience from his coaches puts Utica ahead of the game.
“I think there’s a huge advantage. The wealth of knowledge we have and intensive teaching is the most in the area, not many organizations have such high quality personnel.” Horton stated. He also mentioned that another advantage of having so many coaches with such high playing experience levels is that it helps the coaches prepare their players for the next level.
Being a former scout also gives Horton another perspective of player development. “When you’re a scout, you look for things like tendencies, who has the intangibles, what skills can be taught, and how their current skill plays into what role they will play at the next level,” he said.
The coaches also play a mentor role, not just for players, but for parents as well. Since they know what it takes to get to the next level, the coaches are able to help guide the parents as to what route is best for their kids.
Coach Pawlick likes where the Jr. Comets stand and believes it will make a big difference in their careers down the road. “The overall direction of the organization is trying to surround these young athletes with experienced hockey players with a plethora of hockey knowledge.”