SAULT STE. MARIE â?? Former Lake Superior State assistant hockey coach Rich Metro is returning to Sault Ste. Marie in a similar role and is eager to reacclimatize to the 24/7 world of college hockey where he is surrounded by people who share his passion for the game.
Metro, who served as LSSU hockey video coordinator and volunteer coach in 2007-08 and an assistant coach for three seasons, returns to his hometown from France, where he was head coach of the Villard de Lans professional hockey team from 2011-14. He arrives in Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday and hits the ground running, as the LSSU staff serves as host of the USA Bantam Selects Camp beginning Friday.
â??I have a strong passion for college hockey and love everything about it,â?? Metro said from France while he was in the middle of making phone calls to the United States at 11 p.m.â??At this level, guys are a little more concerned about themselves than the team. In college hockey, itâ??s all about the team and winning. For myself, I just missed that 24/7 aspect, talking about it to people day-in and day-out. Youâ??re always on the phone recruiting or talking with your own staff. I had withdrawals from not being around it.â??
Metro was known for having a keen eye for talent during his first stint as an LSSU assistant. He left LSSU to gain head coaching experience.
During his three seasons in France, the Bears improved from 13 th to 10 th to seventh place in the league standings. Central Collegiate Hockey Association notables Jim Jorgensen (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich./Ferris State) and Jeff Lerg (Livonia, Mich./Michigan State) played for Metro last season.
â??Probably the best thing I did was take this job here,â?? Metro said. â??It was a whole new learning curve. I am the guy calling all the shots, making key decisions for every aspect of the team on and off the ice. Iâ??m the one calling all the plays and systems, and Iâ??m under a microscope. Once youâ??re the main guy behind the bench, you canâ??t fool people. Itâ??s completely different from going on the road and recruiting. I learned a whole other aspect of hockey. I was forced toâ?|I didnâ??t really have an assistant coach. The lines of communication with my team had to be open all the time. And my knowledge of the game had to go up a notch.â??
Metro and new LSSU new head coach Damon Whitten are former CCHA playing rivals. They have several hockey associates in common and officially talked during college hockeyâ??s annual meeting in Naples, Fla.
â??For me, one of the things that stood out was the number of people who reached out on his behalf,â?? Whitten said.â??Rich is well-respected in the game. People who I respect spoke highly of his work ethic, character and passion. The more people reached out, the better the fit became.â??
â??Itâ??s been crazy how it all transpired,â?? Metro said. â??Iâ??m really thrilled to come back to Sault Ste. Marie and Laker Hockey. This is another adventure and an opportunity to build something great. Itâ??s definitely going to be a young and energetic staff.â??
According to Whitten, Metro will return to his recruiting role and serve as the Lakersâ?? offensive coordinator.
â??He will play a big role in our offensive systems and our special teams in that regard,â?? Whitten said. â??We will rely on his work ethic when heâ??s on the road, where he can build relationships with junior teams and playersâ??families.â??
Metro helped recruit current Lakers Chris Ciotti, Andrew Dommett and Stephen Perfetto.
â??Thatâ??s obviously one of the areas we have to get on top of right away,â?? Metro said as the Lakers continue to replace nine departing seniors. â??Damon has been doing quite a bit of recruiting himself. He hasnâ??t been sleeping much either.â??
Metroâ??s passion for Laker Hockey and the Sault community stood out to Whitten, as did his winning resume as a player.
Prior to playing four seasons at Northern Michigan University and six seasons professionally, Metro grew up playing youth hockey in the Sault Michigan Hockey Association. As a professional player, he spent four seasons with Villard de Lans, where he met his wife, Elodie.
After winning national championships with two different SMHA teams, Metro played AAA midget hockey for the Soo Hawks and Marquette Electricians. He spent the Junior A portion of his career with the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League. He was NMUâ??s rookie of the year and a two-year co-captain. He totaled 24-35â??59 for the Wildcats from 1995-99.
In addition to playing four seasons in France, where he totaled 24-35â??59, Metro played for the Pee Dee Pride (East Coast Hockey League) in 1999-00, and the Columbus Cottonmouths (Central Hockey League) and Ashville Smoke (United Hockey League) in 2000-01.
Metro is the son of Con and Grace Metro. His father played for Ron Mason on the first Laker hockey team in 1966-67. His brother, Terry, was a goaltender at Wisconsin-Stout and currently lives in Bozeman, Mont.
Metro completed a B.A. in liberal arts in 2007-08, while serving as the Lakersâ?? video coordinator
â??Iâ??m excited for my family to be able to come back to Sault Ste. Marie,â?? Metro said. â??This is a great hockey community where there is a great love for Laker Hockey and the game in general. A lot of places donâ??t have that. Iâ??m very blessed to get the opportunity to come back and do the job I love to do.â??
LSSU's other assistant coach will be named at a later date.