By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Johnstown Chiefs coach Toby O’Brien made one of the most difficult decisions of the season when he waived Johnstown native Josh Piro on Monday.
A Bishop McCort High School graduate, Piro beat the odds by making the Chiefs roster out of training camp despite competing against players with much more extensive hockey backgrounds.
“I’ve been associated with Josh for about a dozen years now,” O’Brien said Monday. “He’s like a third kid to me. This is a little tough on him and me.
“I look at two things. One, the big picture. When you come out of Division III hockey and you’re one of four or five kids out of Division III hockey in the country who sticks at this level, you should be proud of it. No. 2, he’s done something that no one else has done, being a Johnstown native and earning himself a job with the Johnstown Chiefs.”
Piro, 25, has learned a lot about the professional game during his time with the Chiefs.
He was disappointed by his release, but the way he handled the tough situation proved just how much he has matured on and off the ice.
“Definitely I don’t have any hard feelings,” Piro said. “My time here was great. This is a great bunch of guys. Every single one of those guys in that locker room is a great hockey player. I consider them my friends.
“It’s part of the business of professional hockey. You take the good with the bad. Obviously I’m disappointed to leave a team that has a great opportunity to compete for a championship.
But things happen for a reason and I’m going to make the best of it.”
O’Brien worked to place Piro on another ECHL team, with the option of obtaining his rights for next season.
Piro appreciated the effort and said he might be headed to the Texas Wildcatters, a team owned by Chiefs minority owner Richard Adams, or the Florence Pride coached by former Chiefs captain Perry Florio.
“I’m definitely going to go somewhere,” Piro said.
Piro actually made his Chiefs debut during last season’s finale at Cambria County War Memorial Arena. He signed as a free agent after completing his career at NCAA Division III Elmira College in New York and became only the third Johnstown native to play in a regular-season game since the Chiefs began play in 1988.