The Cincinnati Cyclones on Tuesday became North America’s only pro hockey team with a Black head coach after promoting Jason Payne to the position.
Payne, 45, has spent two seasons as an assistant with the Cyclones, the Buffalo Sabres’ ECHL affiliate. He replaces Matt Thomas, who recently left to become an assistant with the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL affiliate. Payne will also be the Cyclones’ director of hockey operations.
The Sabres started sending prospects to Cincinnati, which opted out of the 2020-21 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2018-19. So far, goalies Michael Houser and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen have moved up from the Cyclones and played for the Sabres.
Payne played 14 years in several minor leagues, skating for a whopping 21 teams, including four AHL clubs. The former forward played 132 games in the ECHL, amassing 546 penalty minutes.
After retiring in 2009, Payne worked as a coach, general manager and scout in junior hockey.