He experienced plenty of success as a college hockey player, but Pat Cannone is finally finding his professional footing with the Chicago Wolves.
Being a 21-year old college freshman might be off-putting for some, but Chicago Wolves forward Pat Cannone found the experience was definitely worth the wait.
“I had four or five schools recruiting me out of juniors, but once Miami University (Ohio) came through with their offer, it was kind of a no-brainer,” he said. “That’s where I wanted to be and where I wanted to go. A lot of guys I played juniors with were committed there so it made the transition easy; going in and already knowing people. It was the best decision I made, the best four years of my life. From the coaching staff to the players, everything was top-notch. You get treated really well, so it was a lot of fun.”
The 27-year-old Bayport, New York native skated with the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s New England Jr. Falcons and United States Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders before committing to the RedHawks. He was one of the oldest guys in his first year on the squad, but got over the strangeness of it quickly.
“At first, being a freshman at that age was weird,” Cannone said. “But you get used to it. I had been out of school for a couple years prior and I had been taking classes but I wasn’t really in that full swing of school mode. From the standpoint of being surrounded by classmates who are 18, 19, it didn’t really have a bearing on anything. We were all hockey players and we all had the same thought process.”
The team’s chemistry ended up helping them make some serious history for Miami’s hockey program. During Cannone’s sophomore season (2009-10), the RedHawks made their first Frozen Four appearance. In his junior season, they won the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s regular-season title for the first time. His senior year, they captured the program’s first CCHA playoff title.
“It felt like every year we were doing something historical,” Cannone said. “It was pretty cool to just get better every year. It was special. We had a really good team all four years. It was pretty cool being on top of the league for my whole senior season with the guys we had and it was great making history at the school. And then I got an opportunity to sign an NHL contract that summer of my senior year, which really just made everything that much better for me.”
The Ottawa Senators inked Cannone as a free agent and sent him to their American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton. The team was in the midst of a Calder Cup playoff run at the time that ended with them hoisting the trophy. Cannone didn’t make any appearances en route to the championship, but he maintains the time spent there post-grad was beneficial.
“I was there practicing with Binghamton and it was great to be there and be a part of it and see the culture of an organization while they’re on their way to winning a championship like that,” he said. “You see what it takes to win one of those. I was there every day with the guys; I just wasn’t playing. And I got a ring and I got to partake in the celebrations with all of them, so it was fun just to see what it takes to win at the pro level.”
After two seasons in the Senators organization, Cannone was traded to the St. Louis Blues in July for future considerations. The move was orchestrated by Wolves general manager Wendell Young, who thinks Cannone has yet to tap into his full capabilities.
“Pat’s a guy that, in scouting him, Gene Ubriaco and I see more out of him than he’s shown so far,” Young said. “He may not even realize how good he is. We saw him play in college, we saw him in the AHL and we don’t think he has been utilized properly yet. We made an effort with St. Louis to try and get him and take a look at him. He’s very skilled. We’re trying to bring that out of him as much as we can and make him see how skilled he is. Again, it comes down to preparation so he can bring that skill to the forefront. That’s why he’s here.”
In 26 contests with the Wolves this season, Cannone has notched five goals and 10 points and boasts a +9 rating. While his roles on the ice have changed over the years, playing smart is always at the forefront.
“In college and my first year pro, I was a good power-play guy. I scored a lot of points,” Cannone said. “The last couple seasons I haven’t been on the power play as much and I’ve been trying to contribute in other areas. You have to be smart and be really aware when you’re playing, and you have to know the good areas to be in on the power play. You don’t have to have the best shot; it just has to be a smart shot. I’m trying to do better with that.”
So while he may jokingly call himself “old” compared to others at similar stages of their careers, Cannone is wise. He has experienced success. He knows what it takes to get where he wants to go, even beyond his playing days.
“Leaving after my senior season at Miami and spending some time in Binghamton really helped me. You learn to take it one day at a time and you go from there,” he said. “Being with the Wolves has been good. It’s a great organization with a lot of history and you want to try and add onto that. The staff and the coaches are top- notch and hopefully I make a little niche on the team. We have a lot of good guys. It’s competitive and it’s good. It keeps you honest.
“I think about coaching sometimes too. I minored in coaching at school. It’s something I feel I’d be good at, but I’m not there yet. Maybe one day.”