Calgary, AB – Good afternoon Mustangs fans! Today we catch up with ‘Stangs alumnus and later NHL’er Tyler Sloan.
Tyler grew up in Calgary and has loved hockey from a young age; he had a unique opportunity to play at the Saddledome with the Calgary Buffaloes Midget AAA team at the Mac’s Midget tournament. The following year, Tyler ended up being recruited into the Mustangs organization; Sloan tallied 31 points in 45 games for the Mustangs in the 1999-2000 season before moving on to Kamloops a year later. Through his time in the WHL, ECHL, and AHL, Tyler’s love of hockey took him everywhere from Syracuse to Las Vegas and eventually to Washington, where he’d don a Capitals jersey and take the ice alongside hockey greats such as Alex Ovechkin and Sergei Fedorov.
When Sloan made his way up to the NHL in 2008, he had a unique opportunity to play against his childhood team as part of the Capitals organization. When asked what it felt like walking into the Saddledome as a player instead of a fan, Tyler pointed out that this had been the case once before at the Mac’s Midget tournament. “It was a very strange feeling but it felt comfortable, you know?” he explains, while still acknowledging that the NHL was a different experience entirely.
Sloan actually ran into a former coach of his before the game. “He came up and said congrats and have a great game, and that was a super cool experience too, just made it that much more special, to see a coach that I was with in minor bantam and helped me along the way,” elaborates the well-travelled hockey veteran. “He calmed me down a little bit. It was all just a very surreal experience.”
Tyler had an opportunity in 2009 to play in an NHL playoff game; when asked if the players feel playoff energy as much as the fans do, his response was that in the dressing room the mood was generally the same as normal. “There’s obviously a little bit of a heightened level of excitement, but the routines are the same and you go out there with the same gameplan and try to execute.”
“The fans [in Washington]… it was outrageous, you can’t even hear yourself think,” adds Tyler, claiming that the players really felt that playoff intensity when they stepped out on the ice. “In Pittsburgh I actually played two games [that] year; in Pittsburgh it was the Igloo, and it was the old Pittsburgh rink and the atmosphere was totally electric, and so loud, and the intensity and the nerves… everything is just on another level in the playoffs.”
“Going from the Western league, living with billets, you get treated well and they’re cooking for you and everything, but when you turn pro, I was living in Syracuse, New York and finding a place to live for the first time, getting furniture, paying bills. I was on my own,“ responds Tyler when asked to reflect on how hockey helped him mature as a person, suggesting that this experience sped up his maturing process away from the rink. “There’s nobody taking care of you, nobody helping you out, no parents, nothing.”
“At the rink, you’ve got a family of teammates, coaches and everybody. You learn how to treat people. For me that was a big thing too at the rink, it didn’t matter if it was a GM or president, or the janitor at the rink, I treat everybody the same. And I found throughout my career that went a long way, and I think I’m still like that today.”
Sloan’s most memorable story from his NHL career? The rookie dinner. “Mine was in Hollywood, in LA, and it was a ton of fun but the crazy thing about it was I was sitting directly across from Sergei Fedorov, and doing shots with Sergei Fedorov at my rookie dinner, that was pretty cool. To get a chance to talk to him and learn from him, hang out with him was pretty cool.”
In a Globe and Mail article written in 2008, Sloan says if there was a movie title he could name his career after, he’d choose “Cinderella Man”. 10 years later, when asked if he’d like to change or add upon that name, given the chance to look back on his NHL career and life after hockey? His answer was measured and simple.
“It really was quite fitting. I think Allan Maki wrote that article, and it’s great and I would probably still use that, that title. Like the movie, I went through ups and down in my career, [it] definitely wasn’t a normal path. So, yeah, I’d probably still use that.”
Special thanks to Tyler for taking the time to talk; he was thoughtful on the phone, considered every question carefully, and was a true class act.
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