Mike and Mike’s great adventure is now heading to Italy.
Former Peterborough Petes head coaches Mike Keenan and Mike Pelino reunite to coach the Italy men’s national ice hockey team ahead of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Pelino played for Keenan with the Oshawa Legionnaires and the University of Toronto Blues. Keenan brought Pelino onto his coaching staff at the 1991 Canada Cup and hired him as an assistant coach for the NHL’s Florida Panthers. They worked together on the reality TV series Making The Cut and teamed up for three seasons in Russia, where they led Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the Gagarin Cup as KHL champions.
Keenan will serve as head coach and Pelino as assistant coach to guide Italy through international competition all the way to the Olympics. That includes two international tournaments this year and the 2023 IIHF Division 1A World Championship in Nottingham, England next spring.
Italy are trying to work their way back up to the top of the IIHF after being relegated after finishing 11th at the 2022 World Championships.
Pelino did not return to the KHL this season after nine years coaching in Russia, and also turned down an offer to coach the Chinese national team. He was looking for an opportunity that would allow him to keep Millbrook as his home.
For this job he only has to travel to international events and national team training camps and look for candidates for Team Italy.
There was a lot to like about the opportunity
“First and foremost, I would go to the Olympics,” said Pelino, who was video coach for Canada’s gold-medal-winning team at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
“The idea that it was a national team was tempting. The fact that my father (Lou Pelino) was born in Italy and that’s part of my heritage made it that much more special. I didn’t want to relocate and move away from Ontario.”
And the opportunity to work with Keenan presented itself again.
“It’s also pretty special. In my opinion, Mike Keenan deserves to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He’s an outstanding person and we’ve had a great relationship for a long time. I like our synergy.”
Keenan is already in Italy and Pelino will join him for an introductory press conference on Wednesday, preparing for a tournament in Hungary next month.
Keenan ranks 15th all-time for NHL coaching wins. After guiding the Petes to the 1980 OHL Championship and Memorial Cup Finals, the University of Toronto to a CIAU title, and the Hershey Bears to the AHL’s Calder Cup, Keenan coached in the NHL from 1984-2009, winning with the New York Rangers Stanley Cup in 1994 and Canada Cup titles in 1987 and 1991. In 2013 he returned to coaching in Russia.
“I’ve had many wonderful international experiences, but this is both a challenge and a unique opportunity for me,” Keenan said in a press release.
“I find it exciting to follow a process of building and developing a team with a view to an Olympics and as a host country: this experience will also give me the opportunity to learn about new and different facets of football.
“First of all, I can say that miracles happen every now and then: Italians are passionate about sports and for that reason I want to have high expectations. I’m a person who isn’t afraid to break down predictions and adversities.
“I’ve coached Team Canada in the past and I’m used to building competitive teams without coaching them on a day-to-day basis: I want my players to excel, want to achieve results, and have a desire to succeed and be able to withstand pressure. “