Home Junior Legends of NYS Hockey: Buffalo Stampede GM and Head Coach, Jason Bonsignore

Legends of NYS Hockey: Buffalo Stampede GM and Head Coach, Jason Bonsignore

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BUFFALO STAMPEDE

BY RANDY SCHULTZ –

Jason Bonsignore’s hockey career has taken him to many cities in and around North America. But no matter where he chased a hockey puck to, Bonsignore would somehow end up back at his home base, Rochester, NY.

And to say that Bonsignore’s hockey career has taken him many places would be an understatement. That’s why it wasn’t much of a surprise when the former NHL forward was named the General Manager and Head Coach of the USPHL’s Buffalo Stampede for the 2021-22 hockey season.

The Stampede play their home games and practice at the Cornerstone Ice Arena in Lockport, NY, less than an hour’s drive from Bonsignore’s hometown of Rochester.

“I had been coaching youth hockey at several different age levels for the past 10 years,” said Bonsignore, who played for the USA National Select 16 and 17 teams and represented the US at two World Jr. Championships. “My son, as well as two other players who have stuck with me over the years, are on the team.

“We were looking for the next step for them and thought that junior hockey would be the best route. We had a couple of other offers. But with the COVID situation at the time, we thought this would be the best way to to.

“I was excited about the ownership group, who have had a successful franchise in Columbus (Ohio). And it was close to home.”

“Last season I was in Connecticut, taking care of six kids in a billet home. It was a little rough, but it was a good experience.

“I had a couple of other offers from other cities, but this seemed to be the best fit and was close to home.”

While growing up in the Flower City, Bonsignore played area hockey. When the hockey world discovered how talented the forward was, Bonsignore was drafted in the first round of the OHL draft by the Newmarket Royals at the age of 15.

He spent four seasons in the OHL with the Royals, Niagara Falls Thunder and Sudbury Wolves, scoring 81 goals and 216 points in just 191 games. In 1994, at the age of 18, Bonsignore was drafted fourth overall in the NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers.

Although he struggled with the Oilers and was eventually traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the talented forward spent a total of four seasons in the NHL. After being sidelined with injuries over a two season span, Bonsignore returned to pro hockey, including stints in the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League.

His played for Hamilton, Cleveland, San Antonio, Springfield and Lowell in the AHL as well as Trenton of the ECHL. His final stop was in Finland before injuries forced him to retire as a player in 2008.

“I was pretty burned out when I finished my playing days in hockey,” recalled Bonsignore.

Does Bonsignore see himself continuing to move up the coaching ladder?

“I think so,” responded Bonsignore, who has coached at various levels of hockey over the past decade, including stints with the Rochester Red Wings and Regional Express. “I even got more burned out with the political stuff in youth hockey.

“I just wanted to get into coaching to do the right things for the kids. I wasn’t motivated to make money at it.

“I wanted to move my son and his friends up the hockey ladder. And if I can continue to excel with the coaching, then hopefully there will be other opportunities at it, then I’ll stay in it for awhile.”

Bonsignore’s playing career is a good example for young hockey players today to look up to.

“It was an honor for me to be drafted fourth overall in the world,” recalled Bonsignore. “My pro career didn’t turn out the way I would have liked it, especially with the injuries and all.”

He admits that it was a difficult decision to make when it came time to decide between playing junior hockey or college hockey.

“In the end junior hockey offered me the best packages, especially with schooling and finances. It was a hard decision to turn down. I had nothing against college hockey. It was just that junior hockey fit my situation better.”

What can Bonsignore offer to players on the Stampede?

“I have the experience of not only playing in the NHL, but I played in the World Juniors, the minors, and in Europe,” concluded Bonsignore, now 45, who resides in Rochester with his wife, Kim, daughter, Jordan, and son, Parker. “I have seen the best of these different hockey levels and the worst.

“I am using those experiences to help develop these kids. I hope I can help them. And I think I can.”

(Photo by Janet Schultz Photography, NY Hockey OnLine)

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