Image courtesy of Claire Humphrey
Tylor Michel. He came to Cardiff with quite a slim CV. A player very early in his professional career, and with something to prove. The signing was largely unremarked, but Tylor very rapidly became the player that everyone agreed to love.
His departure for Bjorkloven in Sweden has left everyone shocked. The Inferno managed to hold back the tears and catch up with Sir Tylor, now at home in Ontario, to ask him a few questions about life and hockey – well mainly hockey.
The response we got was better than we could have hoped for. We have done very minimal editing. Corrected a few spelling mistakes, clarified a few things here and there – but what we present here are Tylor's words and responses. Nothing has been removed.
I'm sure everyone will agree that what follows is a great read. On to the Q&A... and then comment about it on the forum
Who do you think is the best forward you have played on a line with and against?
This is a great question. Best forward I have played with is definitely Stuart Macrae. I know the fans will love to hear this but its because of many reasons. First off the center position is a position that holds so much responsibility. A good center brings a line together. Hockey is all about puck possession and a good center makes strong plays in the defensive zone thus making strong plays to his wingers.
Stu is great on draws which is such an underrated skill. I've played on lines where the center loses most of the draws. If a center loses a draw you spend too much time defending and trying to get possession. A lot of the time you will spend most of your shift doing this, thus not getting a chance to carry the play and showcase your skill and determination.
Another reason why I loved playing with Stu is because he is left handed, that is because for a right winger playing right wing can hit him with a pass on his forehand on a breakout and vise versa. Think about it... if I'm playing right wing with Right handed player it takes him a split second more to get me the puck, many times the defenseman will see a player bringing the puck from his backhand to his forehand knowing that the puck is going to moved to the right side of ice.
Stu always had the ability to find me streaking hard up the wing. Stu has excellent vision and he also communicate well on the ice. Another underrated skill is on ice communication between players. From a young age I've always been very vocal, so much that I've actually startled my own line mates and have been told not to yell that loud lol. Lines that talk a lot more on the ice are definitely more effective and usually more creative, because you don't always have to see a player to make a solid pass because you can just use your hearing.
Stu is a great skater as well, he never slowed me down. I'm more of a North/South player, so having a good skating center is key. Another thing fans don't know is how lines and teammates communicate on the bench. Stu was amazing line mate in that regard. It's basically people skills because I'm a really passionate player and that carries over to on the bench. There are many times when players have discussions off ice and Stu would always listen and we never really disagreed, which is a huge plus. Also as a player I know when I make a mistake or should have made a different decision, and most of the time Stu knew that I would come off and apologize and he would say "no big deal". I usually like to tell my line mates I screwed up and say I'll make the right play next time. I find it's so much more effective for line mates to listen as apposed to calling each other out which does happen from time to time.
Stu is the complete package, fans see the skating, passing, shooting, but its the small things that make him the best player I have played with. Great attitude, great communicator, good leader and the list goes on. Having the chance to penalty kill together added to the chemistry between us. There is an unsaid pleasure and satisfaction of killing of a penalty together. Also the Kid can snipe. I think it would be scary what we could have done if we played together longer.
The best player I have played against is a really tough question, and near impossible to answer. In college I played against a ton of players that are playing in the NHL now and doing well. Its hard to justify who's the best, because a lot of times I only played against them once or twice because most of the games were out of conference. James Van Reimsdiek chirped me pretty good one time "you play for Wayne State and I'm going to be playing in the NHL in no time" lol I guess he won that chirp even if he's the ugliest guy and I tell him he's on the the All Ugly team. I didn't use that on him for the record.
I played against Eric Staal from a young age to 15 years old. Him and I battled hard in the Bantom AAA Ontario championships. He ended up winning the tournament scoring title and I finished second. A difference of $8 million a year now....hahah. Rick Nash was also a sick player to play against. Although not making it big like these guys its still pretty cool that I played against them. I respect these guys very much.
How big was the transition from North America to here?
The transition wasn't that hard for me at all. I came in wanting to prove myself from day one. One thing that no-one knew about is that I came in with my shoulder messed up. Three weeks before coming to the UK I hurt myself training, it was very very strange how it happened. The combination of that and arriving a day before our first game made me very nervous. It was a really ****ty situation to be in because we arrived a little late and still had to cut and tape up two sticks, try on new gear, and also talk to G about the system he wanted us to play. It would have been nice to practice a few times with the team prior to starting the season. Also the shoulder injury wasn't anything serious, got it checked out and the physiotherapist sorted me out in no time.
I remember one thing about my first game. Trying to toe drag a dman on a 2on1. Didn't pan out the way I wanted it too. I forget what G said, but it was funny because it was a stupid thing to try in your first game on a new team. I guess summer hockey carried over with trying to dangle like that.
Overall the transition wasn't tough. Having only three lines helps get your feet wet in a hurry and it was a great journey.
What is gritty hockey all aboot?
Are you chirping how we say ABOUT? Better not because thats not gritty! Gritty hockey started out as a joke really. My role in Bakersfield ECHL was a simple hard working role... In order to keep your job in the Coast for many players you needed to do everything in your power to do the little things right... lucky for me growing up my dad always told me to excel at any role the coach gives you.
I was always really small growing up, but I played the exact same way I play now. I believe my strong skating ability helped me when body checking started. Many players slow up when they are hitting a guy but I'm the opposite.
Sorry back to gritty hockey. I believe gritty hockey is having the attitude of team first! Take a hit to make a play, drop your gloves to stick up for a teammate, blocking shots, etc. Basically the physical side of the game that helps your team win a hockey game is what I think gritty hockey is all about.
Where should the league focus future development?
Its a shame that the league has no respect around Europe. There are some really good players in the EIHL. I think teams getting blown out 15-0 hurts the league tremendously. How can Edinburgh have a team next year? Its a joke because they couldn't pay their imports last year, whats going to change this year? I think they should take a year off and show a good business plan at how they are going change their ways. Prove to the league that they are serious about competing.
I believe that there is a lot of things that need to be improved with how this league operates. Of course I'm biased about my suspension last season, but ask anyone to review the videos of my incident, Cruikshanks, and Lepines in against Newcastle, forget the name but the guy from Nottingham that punched Latullipe. Latullipe got a concussion on the play and there was no suspension. I'll bet all the money in the world that the consensus wouldn't be me getting the most games out of all those incidents. It was the biggest joke I've heard of.
I don't mind officials making mistakes from time to time, but a ref should know the rules. My first year a ref (not mentioning the name) made two mistakes... simple stuff... just know the rules. Why isn't there any onus on the officials to do the job right???? the biggest thing is to make the league consistent for all the teams... players pushing refs, biting them, and they get a slap on the wrist??? Come on now.
What should GB hockey do to improve?
Great question. I don't know if I'm the right guy to answer this but I'll be short and sweet. Make the league more consistent, make sure teams are competitive, don't let the league end in a tie for first place (you have a chance to make more money with a playoff if this ever happens again). Like any business, the league needs a good business plan, a 5 year plan. Again this isn't my expertise but it should have a better game plan.
What was the single best non hockey related aspect of living in Cardiff ('it being a great city, y'know' isn't an answer)
Very tough question. Our life runs around hockey. We don't have any time to do anything other then hockey. We don't have a Christmas break. Obviously its a great city. I think location is pretty key in terms of friends and family being able to come visit. The flight isn't that long, and its a short bus into Cardiff. This year in Sweden it will be more difficult for friends and family to visit. Sorry if that is a lame answer but the little things are important for hockey players.
How do the fans in the UK, and specifically Cardiff, compare to fans in North America?
It always depends on what hockey team/city your referring to. Bakersfield Condors fans were unbelievable as are the Devils fans. Bakersfield arena is much like Nottingham so the atmosphere is different. Fans got excited but there was never chants "Tylor Tylor Tylor". I'll never forget that feeling when devils fans did that. Having the devils fans right up against the glass provides a pretty cool atmosphere to the game. Also after the game when we skate around and tap the fans hands is something different that is very cool and special. Overall I would say the culture of football fans in the UK kind of carries over to the hockey. Having special chants and things like that are what make it different.
Some about last season:
Is there a feeling of unfinished business from last season for the team?
There will always be a feeling of not completing the job. Its frustrating to say the least that in the last two years we had a chance to win four championships and we didn't come away with one. Unlucky, perhaps? Its difficult to talk about because we were so close 4 times. I would be very surprised if a Devils team has a chance to win four trophies in the next two years. Thats not disrespecting the team or the future on ice product, but that is a pretty amazing accomplishment even though we didn't win one of them. Four out of six trophies, how didn't we win one of them??? Can't even put it into words yet.
Did the purchase of Sheffield have an impact in the locker room.
Yes. Only to joke about it. We don't worry about that. Our job is to play hockey at a high level, win as many games as possible. Be a positive role model in the community. If an owner wants to own 2, 3, 4 teams I don't care unless it brings down the quality of the league and it doesn't appear to be the case so far.
Weller was obviously a huge signing - what was his biggest impact?
It was good for the league because the league has seen its fair share of ex NHLers but most have been at the end of their career when they don't compete at the same level as they once did. Wellsy was a great signing for the devils and the league. He gave the Devils more exposure which probably generated more bums in the seats. The fans shouldn't get use to this because I think the devils got extremely lucky in signing a guy in his prime. Wellsy could have singed for more money else where around Europe, but he is an ultimate family guy and he put his family first. Most guys go where the money is. That being said there is nothing against that.
I have so much respect for Wellsy so this being said is not to disrespect him as a person or player but back to questions about the league. Does this make sense? Wellsy plays 41 games this year and wins player of the year! Pelle wins new-comer of the year and plays 62 games. Doesn't that contradict each other? If Wellsy is the player of the year, how come he didnt win new-comer of the year?? It was his first year too. Those are the little things that don't make any sense at all! I think Pelle should have won player of the year hands down. That honor should go to someone that plays all the games or someone that only misses a couple. If Wellsy played 55 games maybe you can argue about it but he didn't.
Weller was like Gretzky when he got traded to LA. Open the eyes to new fans. I'm sure people heard about Wellsy and came to a game and enjoyed it.
Statistically we had the best forward unit in the league last year. Do we have any chance of retaining any of them?
Yes the team will try to sign some of the forwards. To what extent I'm not at liberty to say but I'm hoping that a few forwards return.
A firm fan favourite, you have left a tear in many eyes moving on - was there something the team could have done to retain your services, or was this a move a chance to see more of the world before retiring? (Or - why have thou abandoned us?)
Truth be told I was ready to move on. Being suspended for 5 games last year left me ****ed off and I lost much respect for the league. There is no way I deserved 5 games for that. Ask the guy I punched, he would probably say I threw a pillow. I didn't hurt him.
You are correct about wanting to experience more of Europe as well. The reason I first came over to Cardiff is because I knew it was tough to get a contract in Europe, and I always told myself I would accept an offer to come over if one was offered. I was lucky to get an offer after my first year. I do regret not staying in North America for another year or two just to see if I could have got some AHL games under my belt. It would have been tough, but I do believe in my ability and I would like to believe that if i were given an opportunity I could have settled into a good role player in the AHL. Hockey has provided me with so much throughout my life and being able to live in different countries around the world is definitely an invaluable experience that I'm grateful for.
Also signing in Sweden is a great opportunity for my career. Hockey is the number 1 sport in the country and I'm looking forward to hopefully making a name for myself over there.
OK - every hockey player seems to want to be one once they retire... so why a fireman?
I love making people happy! I love being involved in the community! I love being respected! I love being part of the team! The camaraderie of being part of a team is the best thing in the world and its probably the number 1 thing hockey players miss once they hang them up.
If you had to pick one part of your game you would improve, what would it be and why?
Awesome question! Shooting accuracy, keep my head up every time I shoot the puck! Jon Pelle is one of the better players Ive ever seen. The kid has amazing accuracy and thats why he scores often. Not the hardest shot, but he throws darts, and he's in-stride which makes it harder for the goalie.
For the record I beat him at the post game. First to hit all the posts.
Joking aside I always want to improve every part of my game. I also want to improve the ability to use my speed wide on dman. Sweden will give me a great opportunity to work on my skills. Over there you don't have to worry about figure skaters being on the ice before the practice and public skating after. More ice time equals more time to improve your game. Also in Bjorkloven Patrik Sunstrom ex NHLer is going to running skilled sessions for players to work on individual skills.
Will we ever win anything with the current ownership/management/coaches?
I don't know???? Can they is a better question and the answer to that is... they have the chance to just like I had the chance to when I was there. You can never say you're going to win something. You have to position yourself to have a chance to win and I believe the devils will continue to, but it will be HARD. I hope they do!
How off putting to players is the Big Blue Tent? Has this ever cost us a signing to your knowledge?
I don't know if its cost the team a player signing. The one positive thing ill say about it is that the atmosphere is super cool!
Now the negatives. The dressing room is an absolute JOKE! It's embarrassing. Ice conditions have been up and down. The team shouldn't lose ice times because the ice can't be skated on... that happened a few times, at times when you need to be practicing. CARDIFF NEEDS A NEW RINK ASAP, everyone knows it. If they get a new rink it will be very attractive place to play.
You support Toronto - simple question... why do that to yourself?
I'm loyal! I've always supported the Leafs. Its embarrassing how poorly they have been. The city needs a winning team badly. I'll always support the leafs!
You are Chairman of the Elite League (that name still makes me grimace), what do you do to improve the game in the UK?
Again I don't really know the responsibilities of that role. Just make the league more consistent. Make sure its competitive. How exciting is the final four weekend? Thats the product you need to showcase! You bring that product throughout the year and the leagues reputation around North America and Europe will improve. Competitive hockey is the key! Fans want to see it, players want it MORE.
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