Coaches’ Category ~ Class of 2019
John was born and raised in the village of Norridge, Illinois, during the late 1960’s and through the 1970’s hockey became the theme of his neighborhood. Playing on the streets was John’s first introduction to the game and then on to the nearby ponds and over to his first league which was in the neighboring village of Harwood Heights.
Hockey was by far John’s favorite sport and it became a daily passion for him. Some of his favorite idols growing up were Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall, and the great Stan Mikita. Throughout his playing career, John was a goaltender from his start in youth hockey, continuing in high school, and also in college at Loyola University.
John attended Holy Cross High School in River Grove, Illinois. While in high school, he worked for his father at the family business, Venus Travel, which he opened in 1968 and still stands to this day at 7418 West Belmont Avenue in Chicago. He continued working there during his college years as well.
John’s first introduction to coaching came about at Holy Cross High School. He became the goaltending coach under head coach James Nardella, whom he played for while at Holy Cross. After a brief stint as an assistant coach in Winnetka, John took some time off to run the family business. In 1985, John married his wife Connie Conenna and moved to Elk Grove Village, Illinois, and raised their two children, Vincent and Julianna.
While residing in Elk Grove Village, John’s coaching career took shape starting with the Northwest Chargers from 1993 to 2006. During that same period he coached the Conant Cougars High School Team in Schaumburg, Illinois, from 2000 to 2012. John also made time to coach the DePaul University Hockey Club from 2006 to 2008. After Terry Stasica’s retirement from Conant High School, John became President and Varsity Coach of the Conant Cougars. Stasica hand-picked John in 2000 to lead his beloved club. In addition, John became Vice President of the Metro Northwest Hockey League from 2005 to 2009. He was a two-time Coach of the Year with the Northwest Chargers in 1998 and also for Conant High School in 2009.
John credits a great part of his career to some of his mentors. His very first coach, Stan Gialo of Harwood Heights, Mike and James Nardella at Holy Cross, who truly were giants at this great game. Gary Pheipher at Loyola University, who showed him the game at a different level. John’s father, Vincenzo Conenna, who demonstrated to him every day to work hard at whatever you do.
John is truly honored to be a part of the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame and accepts humbly this honor of honors. He attributes his success to the love, devotion, and support given by his parents, Vincenzo and Elisabetta Conenna, along with his wife Connie and their children, Vincent and Julianna.
NOTES: The IHHF Induction Dinner will be held in their honour on Sunday, January 26, 2020 at the Belvedere Banquet Hall located at 1170 West Devon Avenue in Elk Grove Village beginning at 5:00 pm. Tickets are available by contacting Norm Spiegel at (847) 269-2922 or email Norm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joining in honoring this special group of inductees will be several of the past inductees into the Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees, and all of the past inductees have demonstrated, through their actions over the years, their personal commitment in making a difference in the lives of thousands of Illinois youth and the Illinois hockey community.
The mission statement of the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame is as follows:
“To honor the excellence of those individuals who, through their exceptional endeavors both on and off the ice, have contributed in an extraordinary way to enhance the sport and image of hockey in Illinois.”
On behalf of everyone involved in the game of hockey, we admire and thank each of the inductees into the Illinois Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2019. They truly are in a class of their own.