At the tender age of 34, Peter Michelutti Jr. almost certainly has far more years of coaching hockey ahead of him than behind him. It only seems like he’s been coaching forever.
It’s part and parcel of winning a midget AAA national championship in only his third year behind the bench, no doubt.
In just his second year with the local AAA midgets, Michelutti and company guided the team to a Telus Cup championship, posting a dramatic come-from-behind win over Winnipeg in claiming the Canadian crown.
“It gives you that rush, that unbelievable feeling, and you wonder if you should just retire after that,” Michelutti said with a laugh. “Over time, you realize how hard it is, what a tough road it was, that you have to have the right players, the right attitude, and when it comes down to it, some amount of luck.”
In 2012, Michelutti led the team to a second provincial championship, though the Telus Cup nationals did not go nearly as well as the initial foray. Currently preparing for a season that begins in just over two weeks time, he knows that the landscape of midget AAA hockey is constantly shifting.
“It’s definitely tougher now. Midget hockey has changed,” Michelutti said.
“Because of the draft in the minor midget year, we find that a lot of promises are made. So much is based on that year, that if you don’t get drafted, or things don’t go well, it really affects a kid.
“Some kids, their whole life has been built for that year and it’s tough to deal with that setback.”
Entering his eighth year already as head coach of the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves, Michelutti Jr has drawn on a rich hockey background in carving out his coaching niche.
Despite eventually earning himself an NCAA scholarship as a player at Northern Michigan, the only son in a family of two children did not make the move to the AAA ranks until his major bantam year.
“Playing AA hockey at a younger age, where we didn’t have the pressure of AAA, you gained a lot of confidence,” said Michelutti. “We weren’t a team that won every tournament, but we were put in situations where we had a chance to succeed.”
Suiting up for one year with the franchise he now coaches, Michelutti moved on to play two years of junior hockey in Owen Sound before heading west to join the Kindersley Clippers in Saskatchewan. Despite being drafted in the later rounds by the Sudbury Wolves, Michelutti opted to forego the Ontario Hockey League.
“The one reason I went the NCAA route was that I wasn’t developed quite as well.”
Adjusting to his lack of size, in many ways, laid the foundation for the coaching acumen that Michelutti possesses to this day.
“As I got older, when you’re not necessarily leading the team in scoring like in minor hockey days, you definitely have to adapt. You had to be able to play both ends of the ice,” he added.
His thorough knowledge of the game allowed his coaches both at Northern Michigan and also in Italy, where he played two years professionally, to utilize Michelutti both as a forward and defenceman.
“It’s one of those things that has really helped me as a coach, being able to relate because of having been in those situations both as a forward and a defence,” he explained.
As for his own personal aspirations, Michelutti admits to giving it some thought.
“It would be nice to coach at a higher level, whether that be OHL, or semi-pro, or obviously everybody dreams of the NHL,” he said.
“For me, I’ve had some thoughts, but with the situation I’m in, for me to go to that next level, I might have to live in a different city, the pay might not be that good.
“I’m in a good situation right now, working with my father and working with midget hockey. There is a part of me that wonders about going to a different level, but when you’re at that level, it’s a numbers game, it’s a business,” Michelutti added.
“And I really enjoy what I’m doing right now.”
Randy Pascal is the founder of SudburySports.com and a contributing sports writer for Northern Life.