The Cincinnati Cyclones have named Jason Payne the sixth head coach in franchise history, subsequently becoming the first person of color to hold this position with the Cyclones.
In a historic moment for the Cyclones organization, Payne, a member of the NHL Coaches Association BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Coaches Program, is currently the only head coach of color in professional hockey, the third in the ECHL’s 33 year existence, and sixth BIPOC Head Coach in professional hockey history, joining Dirk Graham (Chicago Blackhawks, NHL, 1998-99), John Paris Jr (Atlanta Knights, IHL, 1994-1995 ), Shawn Wheeler (Charlotte Checkers, ECHL, 1998-2000), Graeme Townsend (Macon Whoope, Greensboro Generals, CHL/ECHL, 1999-2002), and Leo Thomas (Macon Mayhem, SPHL, 2018-2019).
Jason will also serve as the team’s Director of Hockey Operations, and will continue his work with the Cincinnati Cyclones Foundation to help grow the game of hockey at the youth level in the Greater Cincinnati Area.
This announcement follows the departure of former Cyclones Head Coach Matt Thomas, who was named the Assistant Coach for the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL).
“I would like to thank our ownership group, Ray Harris, and Kristin Ropp for trusting in me and believing in my abilities,” said Payne. “I am humbled, grateful, and excited for this amazing opportunity. I would like to thank Matt Thomas for all that he has done to support the Cyclones and for giving me my first opportunity at the professional level as a member of his staff. I would also like to congratulate him on his recent hire as the assistant coach with the Providence Bruins and joining the Boston Bruins organization.”
“We are going to remain committed to continuing our development both on and off the ice for our players and in the community. As an organization, we are equally committed to continuing the growth of minor league hockey, as well as the overall growth of the sport in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Area. From our fans, to our players, to our staff, this is a first class organization and I will continue to treat it as such. I’m excited for what this season will bring for our team.”
“Jason is more than ready to take over the helm for our team and I am proud to offer him this opportunity,” said Cyclones Vice President and General Manager Kristin Ropp. “His commitment to maintaining our winning culture while growing the game of hockey in the Greater Cincinnati Area are ingrained in him due to his tenure with our Organization. There is a great sense of peace of mind turning the team over to him. I am excited to see Jason’s leadership development even more so and witness his success both on and off the ice.”
Payne, 45, was first introduced to fans in the area during the 1999-00 season playing for the AHL-Cincinnati Mighty Ducks. The Toronto, Ontario native also played part of that season in the ECHL for the nearby Dayton Bombers.
After a 14-year playing career amassing 1,825 penalty minutes, Payne accepted an assistant coaching job for the 2010-11 season in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL). Afterwards, Jason would spend the next several seasons in various roles across multiple leagues, serving as a scout, skills coach, and skating coach. Just before joining the Cyclones, Payne was the General Manager for the OJHL’s Georgetown Raiders. He joined the Cyclones as the team’s Assistant Coach prior to the start of the 2018-19 season.
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