PIETRONIRO AT HOME ON CORPUS CHRISTI'S BLUE LINE
By Matt Mackinder
Arizona Rubber Magazine
Phil Pietroniro has been everywhere.
From Montreal to Idaho to Arizona and now Texas, the 17-year-old has already seen much of North America.
That’s par for the course, though, when you’re the son of a hockey coach and a high-level player in your own right.
Marco Pietroniro, Phil’s dad, has been the head coach and general manager of the Arizona Sundogs of the Central Hockey League (CHL) since the team opened its doors in 2006.
It’s in the Phoenix area where the younger Pietroniro honed his skills on skates, and now he’s embarking on a career away from home as a rookie defenseman with the Corpus Christi IceRays of the North American Hockey League (NAHL).
“I’ve learned everything I know in hockey from my dad,” said Pietroniro, who calls Prescott Valley – where the Sundogs play – home. “I know I still have a lot more to learn, and I’m sure I’ll get a few pointers from him when my parents come to a few games. He never stops coaching.”
The Pietroniro clan moved to the desert six years ago when the Sundogs franchise entered the CHL. It was in Arizona where youth hockey started to become a way of life for Phil, who played locally for the Phoenix Polar Bears, Desert Youth Hockey Association and P.F. Chang’s/Phoenix Jr. Coyotes organizations.
“I didn’t really live the Phoenix life,” said the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Pietroniro. “I lived an hour-and-a-half away (to the north) and commuted each day to practice and games. It was all worth it, though.
“My parents would switch off days driving me to and from Phoenix. They didn’t mind the drive; they’re both the type that want their kids to go far and will do whatever they can to help make that happen.”
For Pietroniro, he wants to make hockey happen for as long as he can.
“The past year or so, I’ve been looking at Division I hockey,” said Pietroniro. “It’s a new situation for us because my dad played Major Junior hockey (in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League from 1987-1990) and we were never really exposed to college.
“I do want to play D-I somewhere and I don’t really have a preference at this point; I just want to go to one that’ll give me an opportunity.
“All I’ve ever wanted out of life is to play hockey and that’s my No. 1 priority. If D-I is as far as I go, I’m good with that, but I just want to get adjusted here in Corpus and see where this season takes us.”
Coming to the Tier II Junior A NAHL meant moving away from the comforts of home, but Pietroniro pretty much braced himself for a change of scenery in the spring.
“Last year at regionals (with the Jr. Coyotes), Corpus watched me play and contacted my parents,” explained Pietroniro. “I went to camp, played pretty well and made the team, so here we are.
“I’ve learned a lot about the NAHL and especially Corpus in that these guys only want you for a year or two and then want you to move up. Even if I don’t after this year, I’d be happy coming back for another year.”
And Pietroniro is excited about the prospects of this year’s IceRays squad.
“We have a really skilled team and we’ll get better as the season goes on,” he said. “With the guys we have and the coaching, I think we’ll surprise some people this year.”