SAULT STE. MARIE – After four seasons as an assistant coach at Lake Superior State University, Rich Metro is returning to professional hockey and the team that won two French elite league titles during his six seasons of playing overseas.
Metro, a Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., native who played college hockey at Northern Michigan University, has been named head coach and general manager of Villard de Lans of League Magnus. Metro totaled 59 goals and 90 points in France. He has nine years experience as a professional player.
“I’m honored that they thought that highly of me to give me an opportunity as a head coach,” Metro said. “The easy part is that I know exactly what I’m getting into. The down side is that I love working here (at LSSU) and the people who go along with it. I’ve had a very enjoyable four years.”
Metro noted that head coaching opportunities don’t come along often, and he couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“I owe everything to Coach Roque,” Metro said. “For him to hire me right out of playing was obviously a bonus for my family and me. “He helped me learn the whole process – coaching, recruiting, travel, everything. We have three people here, and most teams have up to 10. One thing that’s nice is that here you learn how to do everything – travel, video, meals – we do it all. I don’t think a lot of (assistants) get to do that.”
“We will miss his energy and passion for hockey,” LSSU coach Jim Roque said. “He is excellent with the players. He has a real good rapport with the guys. He had just finished playing and brought a lot of energy to the lockerroom and office. He learned quickly, and I liked his (recruiting) eye a lot.”
Metro learned there’s more to being a head coach than teaching the game of hockey. At the pro level, Metro will replace grade monitoring and National Letters of Intent with contract negotiations.
“At the college level, coaching is 25 percent of the job, and the other 75 percent is travel, equipment, recruiting, budget and detail work,” Roque said.
Metro will be Villard de Lans’ head coach and oversee a developmental program and its coaching staff. Metro likened the elite league team and its passionate hockey community to LSSU and Sault Ste. Marie. Both go toe-to-toe with powerhouse programs.
“It’s been around for 80 years,” Metro said of Villard de Lans. “The team itself and the town remind you of Lake State. We’re competing against big budget teams and have some of the same problems that Lake State has. Everything is financial anymore. We are a town of 10,000 up against a team from a town of 500,000 that has 5,000 seats sold out. We have a rink like the Pullar. It seats about 2,000, and it’s packed.”
Metro’s roster included three players from the French national team and four North Americans. He is allowed to carry an unlimited number of Europeans.
“They haven’t won a title since I was there,” he said. “It’s a small budget, but they expect a winner. When you walk down the street, you either hear ‘You ___ or that things are going well. I’d rather have that than have the fans not caring.”
Metro originally left Sault Ste. Marie when he was a teenager playing Junior A hockey for the Waterloo Blackhawks. He met his wife, Elodie, in France.
“When you grow up in the Sault, but move away at a young age, you know people, but you don’t get the feeling that you really belong,” Metro said in reference to when he first accepted the coaching position at LSSU. “When I go to Marquette, people still know me as a player. But after a year, the Laker family overwhelms you and you have a great feeling of being accepted. The inner circle and the BlueLiners were so nice and great to my wife and daughter (Violette)…Elodie will never forget how many nice people she met here.
“My four years working under Coach Roque were really enjoyable. I learned a lot from Coach (Tim) Christian as well. He showed me the recruiting ropes and is a real good guy. I wasn’t looking to leave, but when they come knocking, how many times can you turn down an offer?”
Metro will stay on at LSSU through the summer hockey school sessions. Camp begins at Villard de Lans on Aug. 1.
BlueLiners Golf Outing
The annual Soo BlueLiners Golf Outing begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, July 9, with a shotgun start at Sault Country Club. Entry into the 18-hole four-person scramble is $85 per person. Proceeds directly benefit the LSSU hockey program.
“The BlueLiners are our largest support group for Laker Hockey, and they continue to put funds into the program,” Roque said. “They help with the budget, host Parents Weekend and the end-of-season banquet, and are a vital part of our whole hockey operation. They especially help our new guys get a good comfort level when they arrive.”
Jerrard joins Gulutzan’s staff at Dallas Stars
Newly-hired Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan has named former Laker Paul Jerrard as an assistant coach with the NHL franchise. Jerrard was Gulutzan’s assistant with the Texas Stars (AHL) last season after serving as an assistant with Dallas’ developmental affiliate, the Iowa Stars, since 2005. This is Jerrard’s second NHL stint. His first was in 2002-03 as a video coordinator for the Colorado Avalanche.
Jerrard was a defenseman at LSSU from 1983-87 and played 10 seasons professionally. He was an assistant coach at LSSU for four seasons.