Internationally acclaimed former player and coach John Parco will take over as the new bench boss of the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, HockeyNewsNorth.com has learned.
The highly-regarded, 45-year old Parco will move into the role with the Thunderbirds to replace fellow Sault Ste. Marie product Jordan Smith, who was hired earlier this week by the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League as associate coach.
Before going on to a decorated professional career as a player and coach overseas — mostly in Italy — Parco was a three-year scoring star as a centre with the erstwhile Belleville Bulls of the OHL.
Drafted by Belleville out of the Sault Major Hockey Association in the third round of the 1988 OHL draft, Parco produced 109 goals, 148 assists, 257 points over three regular-season campaigns with the Bulls.
A National Hockey League draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, Parco went on to a 19-year pro career, spending the majority of it as an A Division standout with HC Asiago in Italy. As he was a team captain in the OHL with Belleville, he also wore the “C” on his jersey with HC Asiago. Parco also starred for Team Italy at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
After retiring as a player, Parco was the head coach for HC Asiago for three seasons and led them to two championships.
Parco returned home to Sault Ste. Marie last fall and coached a youth team within the Soo Pee Wee Hockey League.
As Parco takes the helm of the Thunderbirds — who won the NOJHL West Division regular-season title in 2016-2017 under the aforementioned Smith only to falter in their first round of the playoffs and be swept by the no. 4 seed Michigan Soo Eagles — he will be assisted by former Sault Major coach Marc Disano.
PHOTO: John Parco, from his days as championship coach with HC Asiago in Italy.