Pelino set to guide Team Italy
Former Peteborough Petes coach and Welland native Mike Pelino will be coaching Team Italy at the 2026 Winter Olympics. Photo by: OHL IMAGES.
The Mike and Mike show is hitting the road again, this time to the 2026 Winter Olympics.
Former Brock Badgers men’s hockey coach and Welland native Mike Pelino is teaming up again with ex-NHL coach Mike Keenan to coach Italy’s national men’s hockey team as the host nation.
The Mikes have a long and successful past together, beginning when Pelino played for Keenan with the Oshawa Legionnaires and the University of Toronto Blues.
Keenan added Pelino to his 1991 Canada Cup coaching staff and hired him as an assistant coach with the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers. They also worked together on the reality TV series “Making the Cut” and teamed together for three seasons in Russia where they led Metallurg Magnitogorsk to the Gagarin Cup as Kontinental Hockey League champions.
Keenan will serve as head coach and Pelino as associate coach as they prepare Italy for the Olympics which will be held in the Italian cities of Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Pelino, 63, is thrilled to be working with Keenan once again.
“I’ve known Mike for a long time,” Pelino said. “We were in Russia and had success there and when the Italy opportunity came they were looking for someone to lead them to the Olympics in 2026 and they really felt the combination of Mike and I could be special for them. His reputation and expertise as a hockey coach and my synergy with him, how we had enjoyed success, they looked at that as a great combination and reached out.
“We’re flattered and honoured to undertake this challenge.”
Pelino has previous Olympic experience as part of the coaching staff of Team Canada at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.
“It really is (unbelievable). It’s almost too difficult to put into words,” he said. “To know that you’re representing your country and involved in your sport that you have such a passion for and it’s on such a world stage with the most elite athletes in the world from all factions of sport, to be a part of it is just incredible.
“In 2002 to have been part of the men’s hockey team and to win Canada’s first gold medal in 50 years or whatever it was, it was pretty special. Now to have the opportunity to hopefully represent, in this case a country my father was born in, is so, so special.”
The job also appealed to Pelino who wanted to remain closer to his Millbrook home after decades of travelling around the globe.
“I was nine seasons in Russia and although it was an incredible experience and opportunity and I loved every moment of it, it’s tough being away from your family and home for virtually 10 months of the year,” Pelino said. “I had decided I wasn’t going to return to Russia and then this Italian opportunity came up and to be able to be based out of Canada, out of my home in Milbrook, and just to travel three or four times a year for a three- or four-week block, was a perfect scenario for where I’m at in my personal life right now.”
Pelino and Keenan are working with the Italian National Team and will convene three to four times a year during breaks in the European season. Pelino is heading to Italy later this month and will go back again in October, December and next February, a schedule they will follow for the next couple of years.
Pelino’s head coaching journey began in 1987 at Brock where he spent 10 years and has many fond memories.
“Those were special moments, even in the old Thorold Arena sitting under the stands in the coaches room and the different people I had the pleasure of working with over the years, and just really feeling proud of what we were doing for the players and for Brock University,” he said.
“I was at Brock 10 years. Really my stepping stone for the rest of my career and I fondly, fondly look back at my days at Brock and still enjoy staying in contact with many of my former players.”
He also enjoys keeping tabs on the local sporting scene through BPSN.
“I love reading the BP articles,” Pelino said. “It’s my connection to this area still when I get to read about local sports and follow some of the people I knew like Marty Calder and Mike Rao. It’s nice to get caught up every time I go on the BP web site.”
Pelino and wife Kim have two children. Daughter Alexandra is a certified behaviour therapist in the Peterborough area while son David is finishing a degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Toronto.
Dear reader. If you liked this story or one of the 5,200 other stories found on our website, please consider hitting the Support Us button on the right-hand side of our home page and making a PayPal contribution to our website. Your support would be much appreciated. If you are a business owner, please consider advertising on our site. Our rates are reasonable and we provide plenty of exposure for your business. Contact email@example.com for more information.