Former North Allegheny Hockey Coach Named PIHL Commissioner

Thursday, August 21, 2014 | 3:31 PM

If there is one word to describe the objective of Jim Black, it would be “competition.”

Black, a fixture in Western Pennsylvania hockey, has been hired as the new Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League, replacing Ed Sam, who held the position since 1999.

An eight-year Coach of North Allegheny, Black won PIHL Penguins Cup Championships in 2007 and 2013. In both seasons, the Tigers won the Pennsylvania Cup as well. Additionally, Black won a PIHL Penguins Cup and Pennsylvania Cup in 2006 at Pine-Richland.

Black will focus on making the PIHL a more competitive, transparent and noteworthy league. Already, he has helped contribute to the realignment of the entire League, forming two divisions at the Varsity Level and two tiers of Class A.

The opportunity to become PIHL Commissioner came at a perfect time for Black, who was contemplating a break from coaching.

“It was the right time to step down,” said Black. “It was a good time to transition and take a break from coaching, because it was something that I put a lot of energy into.”

Black, whose son Cody was a member of the 2013 Pennsylvania Cup Championship team, will look to be more transparent with the players of the PIHL.

“Too often we’ve gone only to parents for their ideas. But now we want to go to the kids as well and get their input,” said Black. “My job is to listen and take it to the right forum.”

With a wealth of experience in Western Pennsylvania hockey, Black looks to dwell on his years in the sport. Before North Allegheny and Pine-Richland, Black spent time at Beaver and North Hills. He also coached for a season at the University of Pittsburgh and for numerous amateur teams.

All three of his children play competitive hockey in Western Pennsylvania and Black’s father served an administrative role with AHAUS, an amateur hockey organization that operated before the creation of USA Hockey.

A month ago, Black turned in his resignation to North Allegheny director Bob Bozutto, who he worked closely with to build the Tigers program. Creating relationships between the hockey teams and school Athletic Directors, an uncommon occurrence, is another of Black’s objectives.

“Reporting to the AD was a great experience,” said Black. “Bob Bozutto made my job enjoyable.”

Bozutto has already found Black’s replacement, again hiring a former Pine-Richland Coach. Mike Bagnato will take over on the bench for the Tigers when the season starts in early October.

But competition will be Black’s main goal. He cited the success of the highly competitive Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League as a great source of development for young players.

“Kids need to play against like talent,” claimed Black. “Nobody benefits from games that are 10-0.”

He will also look to sit down with the former Open Class teams (now called Division 2) and try to help them grow their programs into “pure” teams, meaning that they will strive to compete in Division 1 with the rest of the PIHL varsity. The handling of the Open Class, which is intended for developing programs, has been a prime subject of discussion over the past few seasons.

Black is fortunate in a way, as he will step into the role during a time in which the sport is thriving in Western Pennsylvania.

“There are great people in the hockey community in Pittsburgh,” he said. “ We need to find out how to capitalize on this great Pittsburgh market.”

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