FORT WAYNE, IN – When Guelph, Ontario native Mike Cazzola signed with the Fort Wayne Komets in July 2016, little did everyone know just how much of an impact he would have on the team.
Mike scored his first pro points in his first appearance at Quad City on October 14 and scored his first pro goal the next night. In December, Mike netted his first career hat trick and added two assists for a five-point game. Mike was named ECHL Player of the Week for the week of December 12-18, 2016. He was also named ECHL Rookie of the month in the same month.
On top of all that, Cazzola is in the running for the ECHL’s Rookie of the Year and is on a Komets team that will have the chance to win their first Kelly Cup championship this year.
Let’s meet Fort Wayne Komets rookie forward Mike Cazzola.
The Sin Bin: What is your motivation to go out and play the best game that you can?
Mike Cazzola: I have been playing hockey for 20 plus years now so the love of the game is obviously the number one motivator for me. Then being in Fort Wayne, and the fans that we get, you want to make sure that you do it all for them so that way they keep coming back. I also play the best I can for my teammates. You never know when it is going to be one of the guys last years and you don’t know the situation that everyone is in so you play for each other. You just play for each other and for the game of hockey.
TSB: You got your AHL debut this year, how was that experience?
MC: It was awesome! It was a goal of mine to possibly get called up and for that to happen was a goal that I got to achieve. Just being up there even if it is just for a week, just being up there and experiencing what the next level is like is huge for my career so I can kind of gauge where I am at and what I need to do in the offseason to prepare for next year. I think that it was good stepping stone for me.
TSB: While preparing for this interview, I did a little bit of research and I learned that you have been on a team with Shawn Szydlowski before. How does it feel to be back on a team with him?
MC: It is a lot of fun. Obviously, we played four years together in Erie so anytime you come back with old teammates, you talk about all the memories that you had together and we are trying to create new ones here in Fort Wayne. I think that we have done good so far together so it has been a lot of fun playing with him. Made the transition to pro a lot easier knowing a guy and being a little bit more comfortable on the ice for sure. Took us a little bit to get back on track but now we are having fun like old times
TSB: What is the best advice that you have been given?
MC: I think someone along the way told me to just enjoy the ride, I think that is the best advice that I have been given. I know people go through their ups and downs in hockey, rather it is cold streaks or being away from family and friends. You must remember sometimes why you chose this career path and when hockey is going good for you, everything is fun. But when things aren’t going good, you have to remember why you chose it. You should make sure you have as much fun as possible while you are doing it.
MC: I don’t really do a whole lot but I try to keep as busy as possible. All year I have been volunteering at the Turnstone over by our practice facility. I try to volunteer there once or twice a week, sometimes three times. I graduated with a degree in kinesiology so I travel with a therapist to get hours so I can possibly continue my education when I am done with hockey.
TSB: You are third among rookies in assists and total points. How does it feel for you to be doing so well in your rookie season?
MC: Obviously, it is awesome. I think a lot of my point production comes from the line mates that I have played with. I came into Fort Wayne, I knew I wanted to be an impact player. I did not want to come in and be in and out of the lineup. Everyone wants to make an impact. It is nice, it is a good feeling knowing that I am helping the team out and obviously individually it was a goal of mine to do well in my rookie season. So, to be able to accomplish what I came to do this season, it has been a lot of fun.
TSB: What made you want to become a hockey player?
MC: Being Canadian you don’t really have a choice. You are thrown out on the ice at the age of 4 with skates. You are pretty much born with a stick in your hand. With an older brother, we played mini sticks and road hockey probably a lot longer than our parents wanted us to but you go with your buddies and everyone seems to have road hockey stick, there is always games going on in the street. You are having fun with your friends, everyone is playing hockey, so you just continue with that. Next thing you know you are playing minor league hockey and then you are getting drafted and playing juniors. All your friends are doing it, you’re doing it and you learn to love the game
TSB: I have a couple rapid fire questions for you
MC: (laughs) Ok
MC: FIFA (Soccer)
TSB: Favorite super hero?
MC: I would have to say, Batman
TSB: Television show?
MC: I must go back to my Italian roots and say “The Sopranos.”
TSB: Things that annoy you the most?
MC: It would have to be negativity and laziness
TSB: Besides hockey, what is your favorite sport to watch?
MC: Would have to say soccer.
TSB: Karaoke go-to song?
MC: I would have to pick “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks
TSB: Song that you listen to before a game?
MC: DMX “Rough Ryders Anthem” or “X Gonna Give It to Ya” or whatever the team decides to play before a game (laughs)
We would like to thank Mike Cazzola for taking the time to sit down with us and do the interview.