OXFORD, Ohio – Joe Cook and Pat Cannone never played on the same team. And despite the fact that they are both Miami University ice hockey alumni, they never even played in the same building. But now they share something special in common aside from just being members of The Brotherhood – a gold medal.
The duo earned the medal last Saturday, June 8, in Dresden, Germany after winning the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) InLine World Championship with Team USA. With Cannone representing the Stars and Stripes on the floor, and Cook guiding the ship from behind the bench as head coach, the U.S. National Inline Team downed Sweden, 6-3, in the gold-medal game.
“It was awesome, a good feeling,” Cannone said of capturing the title. “The U.S. hadn’t won in a couple years. They finished fifth last year, which was kind of a disappointment. To get back to a gold-medal game was really important and fun. USA Hockey took unbelievable care of us, treated us like pros and it was a great experience I will never forget.”
Cannone, a 2011 graduate of Miami, totaled eight points in the six-game tournament, scoring six goals while adding two assists to go along with a +6 rating. The U.S. went undefeated at the World Championship, cruising through round-robin play, before topping the host Germans in the quarterfinals on June 6. Cook’s squad then crushed Slovakia, 11-4, in the semifinals June 7 to advance to the championship game, where Cannone scored one of his goals to help give the U.S. its first inline gold medal since 2010.
Although the 2013 InLine Championship marked the first time Cannone had donned the Red, White and Blue sweater, Cook, who played at Miami from 1990-93, was serving as head coach of the U.S. National Inline Team for the fourth time (1999, 2000 and 2011). This was his first gold medal behind the bench, however, after leading the U.S. to a bronze in 2000.
“He was great. He’s one of the guys, very easy to approach and to talk to, so no problem there,” said Cannone, who knew Cook prior to Team USA tryouts. “He was one heck of a player when he played so he knows what he’s doing. He’s a really good coach, he scouts for the games, he comes with game plans and really sets it up for us so we just go out and execute.”
Cannone also knew that Cook was a Miami man and said that made it easier to talk with him outside of practice and games during the World Championship. The two shared stories and compared their experiences in Oxford throughout their time in Germany.
“He (Cook) gave me the run down, when he played and won the CCHA and what it was like,” Cannone recalled. “He said that his freshman year they weren’t that good and then became a powerhouse his sophomore and junior year so it was pretty cool. It’s also neat because he played with Rico and Berge.”
Rico being Enrico Blasi, the current coach at Miami, who also coached Cannone as a RedHawk and played with Cook back in the early 1990s. Berge being Chris Bergeron, a former Miami assistant coach and now head coach at Bowling Green who was also on that team. Cook, Blasi and Bergeron played a big role in guiding Miami to its first CCHA regular-season title in program history in 1992-93. Like Cook, Cannone was also on a Miami team that made history, as the RedHawks captured the program’s first Mason Cup for winning the CCHA Tournament his senior year (2011) with Blasi at the helm. Cannone also won a CCHA regular-season title, like his Team USA coach, in 2009-10, but felt it was hard to compare those titles to the gold medal he won last week.
“It’s definitely different, but I’m a competitor and I love to win. So no matter what you’re doing, if it’s high level when you win, you have that great feeling,” Cannone said. “I have special memories from both. It’s different but it’s always great to be on top no matter what you’re doing.”
Cannone, a four-year letterwinner for the RedHawks from 2007-11, was a model of consistency at Miami as he never missed a game, playing in all 166 during his career, which ranks second in program history for games played. The skilled forward finished his time as a RedHawk with 133 points, including 45 goals, while scoring at least 30 points all four seasons as he ranks 15th all-time at Miami in points. He was named a co-captain during his senior season, when he also garnered Honorable Mention All-CCHA, while also helping Miami make its first two Frozen Fours in program history.
Cook, albeit nearly 20 years earlier, also had a strong Miami career. The defenseman earned three letters while totaling 94 points in 112 games. He was named First-Team All-CCHA in 1993 when he also garnered CCHA Best Offensive Defenseman. Following his time in Oxford, Cook played five years for the Anaheim Bullfrogs of the Roller Hockey International (RHI) league, while also playing some professional ice hockey.
“He was a big name in roller hockey growing up, a lot of inline kids actually looked up to him,” Cannone said of Cook. “He’s that big name, and he started his own company now called Alkali (roller hockey equipment) so he’s doing big things with the game and helping it expand.”
Cannone was among the kids that heard about Cook. Growing up on Long Island in New York, he actually started his hockey career playing roller (inline) hockey at age eight, before transferring over to the ice version later in his life.
Now a member of the Binghamton Senators, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, for the past two seasons, Cannone has done just fine trading in his wheels for blades. In his two full seasons in Binghamton since departing Oxford, he has suited up in a combined 150 regular-season games while tallying 68 points, including 29 goals. This past season, he chipped in 25 points in 74 games. But when Binghamton’s run in the Calder Cup Playoffs ended May 2, a new opportunity presented itself to Cannone – one that took him back to his childhood days.
“Over the past three or four years I’ve been asked to do the (inline) tryouts but I’ve never been able to do it with college and other conference schedules. But this summer I was able to attend tryouts in Colorado,” Cannone shared. “I was able to talk to Coach Cook for a bit through the roller hockey pipeline and I was fortunate enough to make the team out of Colorado. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I finally got the opportunity to do it.”
Although his main focus is ice hockey, Cannone still keeps his inline skills sharp during the offseason. He has several friends that still play inline hockey back near his hometown of Bayport and is quick to dust off his inline skates and join them once the ice hockey season is over.
“It takes about three or four skates to get my form back and then it’s kind of like riding a bike. It’s different with the edge work and stopping and stuff, but once you get accustomed to it, it’s pretty easy,” Cannone noted of the transition between surfaces. “It’s just something I love to do and it’s a lot of fun to get away from the ice a little bit but still enjoy hockey.”
Cannone added that the inline game itself is quite different than ice hockey. Inline hockey is played four-on-four plus goalies rather than five-on-five like ice hockey. He said that because there are no offsides in inline hockey, it is much more man-to-man defense than on the ice. In turn, that makes the angles you take much more critical and makes the game more of a one-on-one style. The puck itself is also a bit lighter than the hard rubber used for ice hockey.
Although there are several differences between the two games, Cannone felt that playing inline hockey can help his game when he gets back on the ice this summer.
“There are so many guys that play inline that (also) play ice hockey. A lot of guys at the World Championship were ice hockey players that played high-level ice, so I think it helps with your hands, your poise and your passing,” Cannone said. “If you don’t pass the puck right (in inline), it will bounce or bobble so you really have to be focused on that. I think it definitely helps me in a way.”
Among the ice hockey players on the U.S. National Inline Team were goaltenders Nick Maricic, who just won a national title at Yale in April, and Jerry Kuhn, who was a goalie at Western Michigan the same time Cannone was at Miami (2007-11). Cannone also got to share the gold medal with his childhood friend, Greg Thompson, who grew up less than a mile away from Cannone, making the title that much sweeter.
In addition to returning to his childhood roots and representing his country, playing in the InLine World Championship also allowed Cannone to travel to Europe, a place he had never competed previously. He did travel with his family to Ireland for a vacation once, but this trip was a much different experience.
The team had planned on traveling to Prague (Czech Republic) or Munich during its off days, but Germany was suffering from severe flooding with heavy rains leading up to the Championship tournament. Cannone said they were afraid they would not be able to get back to Dresden if they left, so the wet weather forced them to instead explore historic Dresden, which was the site of a famous World War II battle.
In addition to the city, Cannone also enjoyed the atmosphere at the games themselves, despite crowds being smaller than normal because of the flooding.
“From what I hear the crowds are amazing. You get 5-6 thousand fans for big games, and you average about two thousand for your regular games. It was tough for the fans to come and check out the games but other than that it was still really good,” Cannone recalled. “I think we had about maybe close to a thousand people for our last game and there was a really good atmosphere -- screaming European fans. It was pretty cool to see how (they acted) from a roller hockey aspect. But I’ve seen videos in the past like in Czech Republic there are 6,000 people at a game and it’s like an ice hockey game.”
Next year the IIHF InLine World Championship will be in Pardubice, Czech Republic. And the thought of another gold medal with his teammates in front of thousands of fans has him fired up for another go around with Team USA.
“If my schedule allows it, I would 100 percent do it (next year). It’s such a good experience and I hung out and met so many great people along the way. It would be really hard to pass up. It’s just awesome,” Cannone concluded. “The IIHF were great, the way they take care of the players and handle the tournament. It made you feel like you were playing pro ice hockey.”
But for now, Cannone will return to actually playing pro ice hockey, as he has one year remaining on his contract with Binghamton. He’ll be training in Chicago this summer with some of his former Miami teammates. He can also now say he’s been coached by a different set of Miami teammates. And has won championships with both.