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Mike Duco: Something to Prove

A recent addition to the Petes hockey operations staff is assistant coach Mike Duco. Mike, more commonly referred to as ‘Dukes’ around the rink, hails from Toronto and produced a professional career in hockey spanning the AHL, NHL, EIHL, ECHL and Austrian Hockey League.

Mike initiated his journey in elite hockey while playing alongside his older brother, Johnny, in the OJHL for the Thornhill Major Islanders. His decision to play a year of Jr. A was in purpose of seeing more ice time in his underage year, in exchange of being the Kitchener Rangers’ thirteenth forward.

Duco went on to contribute in four successful seasons with the Rangers, obtaining the title of alternate captain, making an appearance at the Memorial Cup, and tallying 242 points while in the OHL.

While playing in his overage year, Duco signed an NHL contract with the Florida Panthers, dressing twelve games, and completing two full seasons with their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans. The former forward was then traded to the Vancouver Canucks, making six appearances on the West Coast while spending a season with the Chicago Wolves.

Mike then briefly spent time in Austria playing for the Salzburg EC during the NHL lockout, to return to Canada to sign a contract with the Toronto Marlies in their 2013-14 season. The Petes coach finished his career in the ECHL as the captain of the Indy Fuel in their inaugural season, and signed as a player-coach turned head coach for the Elmira Jackets in their final year, before arriving in Peterborough.

Mike’s career can be marked by physical play, far larger than his 5’9” height implies. In regards to his stature possibly impeding a team’s desire for his presence, Mike responded with, “I’ve seen struggles, where I was told I wasn’t good enough, where I was told no. I’ve kind of battled my way in my playing career. Resiliency was a big thing for me.”

The steadfastness was necessary after Duco’s playing career when the thirty year old was fast tracked from the position of player-coach to interim head coach, following the release of their former head coach by Elmira’s management. The added responsibility demanded a rigorous schedule and required Mike to fill a variety of diverging roles, “We would play seven games in nine nights and I would be doing video for eight hours a day. That was probably the biggest eye opener for me.” 

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The Toronto native cites former Kitchener Rangers and current San Jose Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer as an attentive aid in his understanding and completion of the various duties required of a coach, “I had never had done video before.” In addition to these tangible teachings, Mike claims that DeBoer’s ‘life lessons’ and high demand of effort from athletes shaped his coaching philosophy moving forward.

DeBoer shares similar respect and admiration for the man he once coached, “Mike has the pedigree from a player perspective, he’s a no nonsense guy. I remember most that he was a warrior and that the guys always played bigger when he was on their line.” He conveyed confidence in Duco’s pursuit of coaching, “Coaching is in his family, his father is a coach, it’ll come to him naturally. When Mike called me in the summer about Peterborough, I thought it was a great option.”

Mike’s older brother and role model, Johnny, has already made waves in Canadian University hockey, posting a 22-4-2 record in his 2016-17 season as interim head coach with the Ryerson Rams, leading them to the top spot in the OUA conference, officially being named head coach of the program on April 19, 2017.

Transferring all he’s learned through an extensive career, with a roster of notable mentors in his corner, Mike has made a smooth transition to the Petes organization. Being the youngest coach among the bench, Duco has appeared to connect with the players, particularly the rookies, in a unique manner.

Maintaining his competitive edge since playing, Mike is frequently one of the final skaters leaving the ice, carving out time to practice face offs with Nick Robertson or footwork with Cameron Supryka.

Beyond the ice, its not surprising that the young coach is able to connect with players in a meaningful way, “I don’t think I’m too far out of their age group, where they can come talk to me whether its about hockey, family, relationships, or anything else outside of the game.”

Sitting in the Sky Box to take notes for a game, his passion for the sport is evident for everyone around him. He’s over zealous when the Petes score, and physically on the edge of his seat in order to view all plays below the goal line.

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He brings high energy to the organization in addition to intense passion for the game, driving players to perform better. Mike Duco’s formula for hockey as equal parts work and fun, alongside his resiliency, has proved valuable as he establishes a permanent presence in the hockey community.

After picking up 4 of 6 points this weekend, the Petes get a second chance at ending the Soo Greyhounds’ winning streak on Thursday, November 30 at 7:05pm at the Peterborough Memorial Centre. Game tickets are available starting at $8 through the Collins Barrow PMC Box Office, online or, by phone at (705) 743-3561.

Looking for the perfect holiday gift for the hockey fan in your life? Petes Holiday Flex Packs are now on sale! Receive four regular bowl flex vouchers to be used between December 30 and January 20, as well as two Petes rocks glasses for just $59.99, a savings of over 40%. Don’t forget to download the free Petes Mobile App, available for iPhone or Android devices.

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