Tyler Kallay’s skates are uncomfortable.
He just got them, and they haven’t broken in yet. His feet hurt, and the blades set him higher off the ice than he prefers. The extra height isn’t necessary. He’s the tallest guy on the team.
It’s impossible to miss Kallay when he’s on the ice. At 6 feet, 6 inches and 220 pounds, he’s like the Bobcats’ version of Zdeno Chara, only Kallay is a forward. He’s strong, fast and towers over everyone else on the ice. He’s not afraid to get physical, should he end up in a fight for the puck.
He’s aware of his size and wants to use that to his advantage.
The Willoughby native graduated from Gilmour Academy in Cleveland and spent three seasons after graduation preparing himself for college hockey. His first season with the Wooster Oilers was strictly a learning experience. He wanted to test out junior hockey and see what he was capable of.
His most memorable seasons came when he joined the Buffalo Regals.
Buffalo is the team Kallay remembers the most fondly. His most vivid memories are of how wild the crowds got in Canada. Buffalo is a part of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, and it often hops the border for its away games.
Kallay was oddly nonchalant about how crazed fans became during his time in the GOJHL. The Regals played in small local venues that were always packed tight with rowdy locals. Kallay said it wasn’t unusual for fans to start throwing whatever wasn’t nailed down at the screens at the players.
“It’s crazy up in Canada,” Kallay said. “We’ve had dimes thrown at us. We were playing against St. Catharines one night and we scored this really garbage goal. I turn around, and next thing I know there’s a guy pouring a full cup of beer over one of my boys’ heads.”
Aside from the beer and free change, Kallay sang his praises about the GOJHL, calling it one of the greatest atmospheres in his hockey career. He liked the close-knit feeling of playing in front of a packed house on a Friday night.
The transition to Ohio has been a nice change of pace for Kallay. Going face-to-face with much older and seasoned players pushes him farther than his time at Buffalo did.
Kallay has struggled with his consistency on the ice, but this can be blamed on his lack of play time. He only played eight games for Buffalo last season and was part of a massive cut. To make matters worse, the Regals held his rights, so Kallay was barred from playing for Canadian teams in the GOJHL.
“Playing in the States was too much money,” Kallay said. “So I decided to quit. I hung out at home, skated as much as I could and worked a full 40-hour job.”
Kallay heard of Ohio through the grapevine. Through junior hockey, Kallay knew many of the players on the Bobcats. Little by little, he heard nuggets of praise about Ohio, and his curiosity piqued.
“I know all the Cleveland guys from back home,” Kallay said. “A lot of them have come through (Ohio) from Cleveland, and they say this is the most fun they’ve ever had. It was their most fun four years, so that’s what I’m looking for here.”
The most exciting thing for Kallay is getting to play the home opener against John Carroll. He hopes that Bird Arena will sell out, and it will be the largest crowd he’s ever played in front of.
Kallay wants to see the fans go crazy on Friday, maybe not to the degree that fans in Canada did, however.
Oh, and he’s hopeful his skates break in by then.