By Leif Skodnick
Special To ECHL.com
When Dayton Bombers forward Tyler Kolarik talks about the mental aspects of the game of ice hockey, his words may carry a little more weight than those of other hockey players.
That is because the 23-year-old native of Abington, Pennsylvania holds a psychology degree from Harvard.
“Well, I wasn’t a sports psychology guy,” the 5-10 and 195-pound Kolarik modestly admits.
“Someone once said 50 percent of the game is mental, personally, I think it’s more than 50 percent mental,” said Kolarik, who was selected in the fifth round (150th overall) by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2000 NHL Entry draft. “One of our veterans here said, ‘It doesn’t just happen at the rink,’ and he’s right about that. Preparation is a lot of it.”
Preparation was the goal of his off-season workout regimen which was designed to ready him for the far more demanding schedule of a professional hockey player.
“In college, we played around 30 games a year, but here we have a longer season and can play three and four games a week,” said Kolarik, whose longest college season was 36 games in 2003-04. “It’s a lot more physically demanding, so this summer I did a lot more cardio to get ready. Professional hockey is a lot tougher on the body.”
Kolarik’s impressive career with the Crimson included two Eastern College Athletic Conference championships and three appearances in the NCAA Championship tournament.
Bombers’ veteran head coach Don MacAdam likes what he sees from Kolarik so far.
“He’s always working hard,” said MacAdam. “He’s one of our best players, and he doesn’t get outworked.”
Kolarik’s versatility as a forward in addition to his work ethic is one of his biggest assets.
“We can use him so many ways. He can play both wings and at center, on the power play, and on the penalty kill,” said MacAdam. “He’s a really talented guy.”
After scoring 126 points (49g-77a) in 130 games for Harvard, Kolarik looks to improve his scoring touch.
“The game is a little different, you have to just try to get the puck deep in the zone and make the best of your opportunities,” said Kolarik, who scored five points (2g-3a) in Dayton’s first seven games while earning a plus-minus rating of +3 and getting shifts on special teams.
“One thing that will help Tyler get to the next level is specialization,” MacAdam said. “He’s so good at everything, but as you get up higher, everyone has their specialty, whether it’s power play, penalty kill, so if he can specialize a bit, it will help him a lot.”
Right now, however, Kolarik just wants to fit into the puzzle in Dayton.
“Right from the beginning, Don told us we had roles to play, and I want to come out and play my role,” Kolarik said. “I want to play that role every night, make things happen, have fun with the guys and see what we can do.”
The veteran coach is glad to have Kolarik, who was assigned to Dayton by Syracuse, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Bombers.
“We’ve got Ben Knopp on recall to Syracuse right now, and if the call comes again, next time it will probably be for Tyler,” MacAdam said. “He’d possibly be there now without the lockout, but I think a lot of guys are in that boat.”
The young rookie who spent four years in Harvard Yard, however, is trying to keep it simple.
“Hopefully, we’ll get out there and win some games. Nothing is more fun than winning hockey games,” said Kolarik. “We’ll take it day by day and see what happens over the course of the year. Again, the mental aspect is a lot of the game.”
If a psychology major from Harvard says it then perhaps it’s more than just a cliché.