Storm Stories is a Guelph Storm original weekly feature for the 2012-13 season spotlighting current Storm Players and giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at the player’s lives on and off the ice.
The dogged determination and gritty toughness that has become the trademark of Tyler Bertuzzi was forged on the frozen rinks of Sudbury, Ontario. In those days, playing hockey was a family affair for Bertuzzi.
“I started out playing with three of my cousins, and I was coached back then by my uncle and my papa (grandfather)” Bertuzzi says.
The nephew of NHL veteran Todd Bertuzzi, Tyler spent those early years learning to play the game under the watchful eye of his family and friends in the tight-knit Sudbury community. But even before lacing up his skates for the first time, Tyler showed interest in the family business.
“Before Tyler could even skate he would run around the house hitting balls with a hockey stick. And when he did start skating lessons, he outright refused to use the skating chair,” says Tyler’s stepmother Mia.
“At that time, there were no heated arenas in Sudbury,” she adds. “But regardless of having to bundle up for those dreaded 7:00 am practices, the smile on Tyler’s face when he was out on the ice made all of it worthwhile.”
Being a smaller kid in those days, Tyler would use his speed and playmaking skills to stay at the top of the pack. But even at that early stage in his career, Bertuzzi would begin to develop the physical edge that has become his calling card in recent years.
“When he wasn’t on the ice he was in the basement playing hockey on his roller blades. At age 5, Tyler showed up to his first “Mickey Mouse” hockey practice with a black eye!”
At that point, Mia had no way of knowing how symbolic a black eye would be of the Tyler Bertuzzi brand of hockey – but she certainly does now.
By the end of his first OHL season with the Storm last year Bertuzzi had amassed 117 penalty minutes, which included 18 fighting majors. If you took his stats at face value you would probably think Bertuzzi walks around everywhere with a big chip on his shoulder, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Before last season, I had never been in a real fight in my life,” Bertuzzi says. “No dust-ups, no punches thrown, nothing.”
When asked whether he sees himself as an agitator or as somebody who sticks up for his teammates, Bertuzzi confidently says “both”, and that he likes to model his playing style after former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Wendel Clark. And while comparisons between the two can certainly be made (both in size and playing style), Tyler got an early start.
“Growing up, Tyler showed an endless passion and determination for hockey,” his mother says. “As a novice, he was like a dog chasing a ball on the ice and would skate through entire teams, refusing to give up. If he was ever sick, it would be a battle to get him to miss a practice.”
Bertuzzi credits his papa for his work ethic – his coach from the age of four up until the age of thirteen. He would work with Tyler one on one to help develop his game after practices and on off-days back at home in Sudbury.
There were some others along the way that also had a big influence on Bertuzzi’s hockey career.
“Darryl Moxam was Tyler’s hockey coach in Minor Midget,” Mia says. “He had such a great way of motivating the players, and taught them how to conduct themselves on and off the ice. He really took Tyler under his wing, and even after Tyler had joined the Storm he was there for him.”
These days, Tyler is the one influencing others.
“Tyler’s younger brothers, Evan (age 11) and Matthew (age 4) both look at Tyler as a role model. He has always exhibited the qualities, strengths and values that make him a great role model for his brothers.”
Bertuzzi spent this past off-season training and enjoying the outdoor life just outside of Sudbury in Naughton , Ontario. A life-long fishing enthusiast, Bertuzzi was sure to take in as much as possible this summer, while also putting on some size (he hit a growth spurt and shot up from 5’9 to 6’0 over the past year) and strength for the upcoming season.
Very recently identified as “one to watch” by NHL Central Scouting, Bertuzzi enters his second OHL season with his sights set clearly on the 2013 NHL Entry Draft next June, where he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his famous uncle Todd. If his offensive game catches up with the rough stuff, Bertuzzi will undoubtedly attract the attention of all 30 NHL clubs next summer, and should help contribute to another compelling season of junior hockey in Guelph this season.
Rich Davidson is a freelance hockey writer covering the Guelph Storm this season. Follow Rich’s work at: