The Cincinnati Cyclones, the ECHL affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Nashville Predators, hired Jason Payne as their new head coach on April 9. He becomes only the second Black head coach in North American pro hockey and is set to lead a team with a diverse roster that includes players from 14 different countries.
The black nfl coaches is a topic that has been trending in recent years. The Cincinnati Cyclones hired Jason Payne, who becomes only current Black head coach in North American pro hockey.
Jason Payne has been appointed as the head coach of the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones, making him the only Black head coach in North American professional hockey next season.
Payne, 45, was promoted from assistant coach to head coach when Cyclones head coach Matt Thomas was hired by the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins. Payne, a native of Toronto, had a 14-year pro hockey career that included stops in the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
“When I was growing up, there weren’t many Black teachers,” Payne recalled, “but when there were, you took notice.” Payne hopes that his employment will set a precedent for others.
“Seeing familiar faces is important for younger players to think, ‘Yeah, maybe I can be behind the bench, maybe I can be in hockey operations, maybe I can be a video coach,’” Payne said to ESPN. “The more people you meet, the more opportunities appear.”
Payne’s ultimate goal is to coach in the NHL. Dirk Graham became the NHL’s first Black head coach in 1998-99, but the Chicago Blackhawks fired him after his first season. There hasn’t been another Black head coach in the NHL since then.
“The NHL and Gary Bettman do a fantastic job of encouraging diversity, and many teams are following suit. A few years ago, this was not the case “Payne said. “They’re trying to change the course of history. All that remains is for us to maintain the course and keep pushing for those doors to open. Those are the goals I’ve set for myself. I’m doing my best and putting out the most effort possible. You must believe in the process. It isn’t always a straightforward process, but you must trust it. What’s going on in my life right now is massive, but it could have an impact on hockey as well.”
After becoming a member of the BIPOC program, which helps minority coaches, Payne was invited to speak at the NHL Coaches Association’s global clinic in May. Payne said his speaking engagement led to further opportunities, and he interviewed with a number of ECHL and AHL clubs this summer.
For the first time, Thomas brought Payne to Cincinnati in 2018. In two seasons, the Cyclones went 89-30-12-4 and qualified for the playoffs both times. In 2019, Thomas was awarded ECHL Coach of the Year.
The Cyclones’ general manager, Kristin Ropp, is the ECHL’s, AHL’s, and NHL’s only female general manager.
“I don’t want Jason to get attention for the wrong reasons – he deserves it,” Ropp told ESPN. “However, the fact that he is still the only Black head coach in the NHL in 2021 is almost sad. It terrifies me. It’s a terrible shame.”
Ropp said she attended an NHL diversity and inclusion seminar in Florida prior to the outbreak.
“It was amazing because I like the NHL’s honesty,” Ropp said. “They say, ‘We need to work on this.’ Because we’re white, we can’t be black. That isn’t indicative of the general people, therefore it makes no sense.’”
Payne’s approach to teaching is to get to know his players as people. He will continue to serve as the team’s director of hockey operations and will work with the Cincinnati Cyclones Foundation, which promotes hockey in the Cincinnati area.
“I wasn’t a natural goal scorer,” Payne said, “but I worked hard, was tough, and fought for every chance I had.” “I know how hard I worked for 14 years to make it to the NHL and play pro hockey. I only managed to go to the AHL. But, if I put in so much effort as a player, why wouldn’t I put in just as much effort as a coach?”
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