The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 15, 2012

Amazing journey: Johnstown’s Piro retires from hockey as player

Mike Mastovich

JOHNSTOWN — Josh Piro’s name has been part of local hockey conversations for nearly 20 years.

n He won four state championships at Bishop McCort High School.

n Piro played parts of two seasons as a hometown skater with the ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs.

n He won one Southern Professional Hockey League championship and spent two seasons playing in Germany.

n The game has taken Piro from

Johnstown to Elmira, N.Y., to Fayetteville, N.C., to Herford, Germany as well as numerous arenas and rinks in between.

This fall, Piro decided it’s time to step away from the game as a pro player.

“I have a lot to be thankful for,” said Piro, who played 318 professional games from 2002 to 2012, scoring 77 goals and 214 points. “I am very grateful to so many people who have supported me throughout my hockey career. Hockey has given me so much and has given me a gratifying life.  

“I feel it’s time to move on. I’ve done a lot of what I wanted to do. It’s been an incredible ride. It’s mixed emotions, but I’m content.”

Johnstown hockey fans got their first glimpse of Piro at a highly competitive level during his career at Bishop McCort, where he and fellow classmate Kris Carlson were part of four consecutive Pennsylvania Cup Class A championship teams from 1994-97. At one point of their senior season, the duo led the state in scoring at all levels while skating on the same line.

After one junior season in the USHL, Piro played four years at Elmira College in New York.

His professional debut came on familiar ice. He played for the Chiefs in the final game of the 2002-03 ECHL season and narrowly missed scoring a goal.

The next year his stay was longer – 38 games in which he netted two goals and six points. Piro’s career eventually took him to Florence, S.C. (ECHL), Fraser, Mich. (UHL); Dayton, Ohio (ECHL); Fort Wayne, Ind. (UHL); Elmira (UHL); Fayetteville, N.C. (SPHL); and Winston-Salem, N.C. (SPHL).  

A forward, Piro’s best year as a North American pro coincided with a title run in Fayetteville. He had 10 goals, 27 assists and 37 points. Showing a bit of that Johnstown toughness, he also had 109 penalty minutes during Fayetteville’s SPHL playoff championship season.

“Reflecting on it, I was fortunate enough to do some special things like playing in my hometown for the Johnstown Chiefs,” Piro said. “Playing for the Elmira Jackals, the city I went to college in, which is like my home away from home. Playing for a legendary organization, the Fort Wayne Komets. I was able to win a championship at the pro level with the Fayetteville FireAntz, which was a magical year all the way around and a fun place to play. Playing in Europe the last two years, and having success and the whole European experience.”

Piro will continue to direct the Slap Shot Cup Tournament, a senior level showcase that brings hundreds of players to

Johnstown. The third Slap Shot Cup concluded last month at Cambria County War Memorial Arena and Planet Ice. But the 33-year-old Piro now will concentrate on a new job in Pittsburgh as well as some scouting and advising duties with a Toronto, Ontario, player management organization.

“There were some bumps in the road, some injuries, and there is always going to be adversity when you’re involved in sports,” Piro said. “Being able to come back after being on the shelf for a year with the shoulder injury (2009-10) was very enduring. Then to have the year that I did making the move to Europe was unforgettable.” 

Piro tied for the scoring lead in 2010-11, his first year in Germany.

“It’s been really rewarding and I feel very blessed to have had the hockey career that I have had and for as long as I did,” he said. “Throughout the years, I felt I wasn’t just playing for myself. I was representing the City of Johnstown, Bishop McCort, Elmira College, organizations I have played for, as well as my family and friends.  

“It’s never easy to walk away from something you have done for so long and have enjoyed so much. You kind of hope this day never comes, but I can’t say I have any regrets.

“It hasn’t been about how many championships I’ve won, stats I’ve  put up, or what level I’ve reached, but rather the lessons I’ve learned along the way and the people I have shared it with. It’s been an amazing journey.”