Former D-III ice hockey player moves behind the bench

Kenny Orlando assistant coached Temple’s club team in 2016-17 and is in his first season as Villanova’s coach.

Kenny Orlando, a senior sport and recreation management major and Villanova’s club hockey coach, instructs during the Wildcats’ game against Drexel University on Saturday at Hatfield Ice Arena in Colmar, Pennsylvania. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Kenny Orlando’s whole life has been based around hockey.

The 24-year-old senior sport and recreation management major started playing at age 3, and his dad owns Hatfield Ice Arena, a rink in Colmar, Pennsylvania. After high school, Orlando played junior hockey, an amateur level of hockey typically played between high school and college, for four different teams from 2011-14.

For the 2014-15 season, Orlando accepted an educational scholarship to play for the State University of New York at Canton, a Division III school. Shortly into his time there, he suffered a concussion in practice that caused him to miss the rest of the season.

He hasn’t played since.

“Me and my teammate reached for the puck together, and I kind of bumped my head off of his shoulder and I immediately didn’t feel right,” Orlando said.

Unable to play as concussion-related issues persisted, Orlando has turned to coaching. He assistant coached for Temple last season and is in his first year as Villanova’s club hockey coach. After Penn forfeited on Friday, he coached his team to a 6-1 win against St. Joseph’s on Sunday at Hatfield Ice Arena.

Almost three years after his injury, Orlando still deals with vision issues and is working toward healing his eye by doing eye exercises and therapy.

“I’m very easily overstimulated, whether it’s very bright lights or a crowd of people or too much going on at once,” he said. “I’m getting a lot better over the years, but it’s still very hard to process things like that.”

After suffering the injury, he transferred to Temple in Fall 2015 as a sophomore, bringing him closer to his home in Chalfont, Pennsylvania.

Orlando said Temple’s club team welcomed him to skate and join the team. He soon realized that his symptoms lingered, and he stopped skating with the team. He never played a game during the 2015-16 season. But he still wanted to be involved.

“I was almost like an assistant coach without the label,” Orlando said.

“Kenny is somebody who I would always listen to for hockey advice,” said Patrick Hanrahan, a former club president who played from 2012-16 and has known Orlando since the two were about 8 years old. “He always understood the game in a different light, probably different than a lot of people see it.”

Orlando officially earned the title after former coach Roman Bussetti agreed to bring him on as an assistant for the 2016-17 season.

“The guys welcomed me even though I was friends with some of the guys outside of the hockey team, and I knew that could have caused issues,” Orlando said. “But they seemed to be accepting of my position and realizing my health issues at the time. And they really did view me as a coach.”

“He was honestly, and I can say this 100 percent, he was the most respected of our coaches on the team,” said Dan Nucero, who played from 2015-17. “More respected than our head coach and some of the older assistant head coaches. We considered him a teammate even though he was a coach.”

After the 2016-17 season, Temple began a coaching search to replace Bussetti. Orlando prepared to sell himself for the job, but the club hired Mark Spease in April before Orlando’s scheduled interview.

Orlando still wanted to continue his coaching career. He became aware of an opening for the coaching position at Villanova and won the job in August.

Orlando describes his time at Villanova as a learning experience, but he feels that he was well prepared due to his past experience coaching at Temple.

Orlando will coach against his former team on Oct. 20 and Oct. 21 when Temple and Villanova play a home-and-home series at the Flyers Skate Zone in Northeast Philadelphia and Hatfield Ice Arena. He said “it will be a funny feeling” coaching against some of the players he tutored last season.

Even though he is searching for internships in the sports management field, Orlando hopes he can coach full time.

“Now that professional ice hockey has been taken away from me as a player, I would like to pursue it as a coach,” Orlando said.

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