Philadelphia is known for a few things: Rocky, the Liberty Bell, the Flyers, Joe Rozycki, and booing Santa Claus. But, take the time to listen to a story of a hockey player from Philly and you’ll learn the meaning of hard work and dedication to achieve your dreams.
I had that opportunity recently as we kick off our new series of Sin Bin coverage with a player profile of Missouri Mavericks forward, Rocco Carzo.
There are certain things every hockey fan should do in their lifetime. The short list should include visiting the Hall of Fame, attending a Winter Classic, and taking in an All Star Game. Watching Rocco Carzo of the Missouri Mavericks play a game should be on that list. If you like watching a guy that is blue collar to the core, Rocco is your guy. If you want a guy who puts his team above everything else, Rocco is your guy. If you need a recommendation on a great place to get an authentic Philly cheesesteak, Rocco is your guy. He is the epitome of what this Missouri Mavericks team is all about and brings the workman-like attitude his parents taught him to the ice each and every game.
Talk to any hockey player at this level about who helped them get to this point in his career and you’ll hear a lot of similar answers. But to see the smile come across Rocco’s face as he gives all the credit to his parents and his family, is an insight to the appreciation he has for where he is in life. The son of a business owner, his dad still heads to work early each day prepared to work late to provide for his family. Yet, just like Rocco, he still comes home with a smile on his face and is thankful for what he has. Success hasn’t come easy for his dad, and he instilled the attitude in his young son that it won’t always be easy, but working hard for what you want is more gratifying than having it handed to you.
Game day for the young forward brings a few traditions. After a morning skate, Rocco heads back home to cook a meal of chicken and pasta before his most important tradition…a nap. Soccer has become the new tradition over the last couple of seasons and has provided many interesting moments in the back corridors of the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. After kicking the ball around with his teammates to get the blood flowing and taping his stick for the evening tilt, Rocco is in full game focus and ready to hear the roar of the Orange Army as he takes the ice through the smoke and lights.
Rocco spent last season as a member of the Ontario Reign; a successful team that made a 19-game run in the Kelly Cup playoffs, before losing to the eventual champion Allen Americans. That Ontario team was an older team with a lot of experience, but lacked the tight knit feel that this group of young Mavericks has. That is a consistent sentiment that has been shared by numerous Mavericks this year despite near constant player movement to the AHL and back. Rocco cites the tight knit locker room of this team, especially the core, as the reason this team could go deep in the Kelly Cup playoffs.
The feeling amongst the Mavs players is that the locker room atmosphere is a direct relation to the coach of this young team. Coach Matvichuk, or “Mats” as he is often referred to by his players, brings a mutual respect to the locker room and the word trust is uttered with reverence throughout the coaching staff and the players. The word “trust” is one that is always mentioned when listening to great teams and great coaching staffs and tends to carry a team far.
One look at the stat line for #12 will reveal a tendency to pass the puck instead of shoot the puck. Coming into the game against the Thunder on Friday, March 4, the young forward had 13 goals and 32 assists on the season. He credits being blessed to play with great players around him. Most every ECHL forward would consider it a blessing to be consistently flanked by the likes of Jesse Root, Tyler Barnes, Andrew Courtney, Josh Holmstrom, or Sebastien Sylvestre. For Carzo, though, it is that team first mentality that has thrust him into a leadership role on this team. If you’re looking for #12 on the ice, he’s likely to be the guy standing in front of an incoming slapshot (and taking one to the head on this night!), diving with his stick extended to chip a puck out of the zone, or waging war around the crease with an opposing player. The work ethic he learned from his dad and his dedication to do whatever he can to help the team is what has truly made him a special part of a special season for the Missouri Mavericks.
“If you play the game hard and you play the game the right way, you’ll be rewarded with points,” Carzo says. “I try to focus on those things and the points will come.”
While Carzo hopes to continue playing for as long as he is able, he is planning for the future. Having completed the pre-requisites for a degree in the medical field, Rocco sees himself pursuing a physical therapy degree following his playing days. For now, it’s all about enjoying the ride while the opportunity is there and in true Philadelphia blue collar fashion, taking in his Kansas City BBQ from the “hole in the wall” places scattered throughout the metro. However, he is staying true to his roots in picking the traditional Philly cheese steak over the BBQ.
Family is a theme that repeats itself over and over in conversation with the young man. When asked what he missed most about his hometown while he is here with us, he responds quietly with, “The family time. I miss a few family parties and vacations. I’m tight with my parents and sisters. That’s what I miss the most.”
I asked Rocco for advice for young hockey players and their families and the response was exactly what one would expect from a humble guy dedicated to his family. “I’ve seen parents who push their kids a little too hard. My parents told me what I needed to do if I wanted to succeed, but if I didn’t want to do it, that was fine.”
He also reminds young players, “It’s just a game. Who cares how many points you have, it’s just about having fun.” He continued by crediting his parents with allowing him the opportunity to participate in many different sports.
On a Mavericks team with quality guys top to bottom, Rocco is one of many with his priorities in the correct order. Spend a few minutes with this player and you’ll quickly find a young man with a bright future and a dedication to family and team.