The hometown kid is back home.
Former Lake Superior State University Lakers assistant coach Rich Metro is returning to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association team in a similar role under new bench boss Damon Whitten.
Metro — a Sault Ste. Marie product who served as the Lakers video co-ordinator and volunteer coach in 2007-2008 and as an assistant coach for three seasons after that — returns to his hometown from France, where he was head coach of the Villard de Lans pro team from 2011 to 2014.
“I have a strong passion for college hockey and love everything about it,” said Metro. “In college hockey, it’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. You’re always on the phone recruiting or talking with your own staff. I had withdrawals from not being around it.”
The 39-year old Metro was known for having a keen eye for talent during his first stint as a Laker assistant. He left LSSU to gain head coaching experience.
During his three seasons in France, his team improved from 13th to 10th to seventh place in the league standings.
Michigan Soo native Jim Jorgensen, formerly of the Division 1, Ferris State University Bulldogs, was a defenceman for Metro’s France team in 2013-2014.
“Probably the best thing I did was take the job in France,” Metro said. “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. I’m the one calling all the plays and systems, and I’m under a microscope. Once you’re the main guy behind the bench, you can’t fool people. It’s completely different from going on the road and recruiting. I learned a whole other aspect of hockey. I was forced to…I didn’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.”
Whitten, as new Laker head coach, is thrilled to have landed Metro as his right-hand man.
“For me, one of the things that stood out was the number of people who reached out on his behalf,” Whitten said. “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.”