During the month of November, Sin Bin correspondent Ted Warren had the pleasure of speaking with Norfolk Admirals forward Tom Mele who joined ECHL Norfolk via trade from the Tulsa Oilers. The 29-year-old Bronx, NY native answered the following questions during the interview.
S.B.: What’s your earliest hockey memory growing up?
T.M.: My Dad played senior league in New York. They would practice every Sunday morning at 7:30, so he would bring me to the rink which meant waking me up around 5:30 every morning and I would go onto the ice for warm-ups. I’d sit on the bench for practice. I was about three or four-years old and that’s how everything started.
S.B.: You were involved in a trade a day before the season started, what was your reaction when you found out you were traded from Tulsa to Norfolk?
T.M.: Unfortunately we couldn’t get something done in Tulsa in time for the season to start so sitting out of training camp was pretty difficult. When I found out Eric (Veilleux) was interested I told my agent one hundred percent that I wanted to come. They were able to get something done right before the season started. I’m grateful for the opportunity and I hope to be here for a while.
S.B.: You’ve won a Central League Championship with Fort Wayne and an ECHL title with Alaska. What do these two Championships mean to you personally?
T.M.: Personally, the first year we won was my rookie year, so I didn’t have that big of a role on the team being a first year guy out of college. Winning in Alaska was my second season there, back-to-years. I was definitely more of a contributor and grateful that I played with a whole lot of great guys that were able to instill some type of pedigree in me to know what it takes to win at this level and hopefully I can bring that experience here.
S.B.: Championship teams are often closely knit, they gel together on-ice and off-ice as well, was that the case in Fort Wayne and Alaska?
T.M.: Definitely! My first year in Fort Wayne, we were inseparable and my third-year in Alaska it was the same way, we were inseparable. We had a great group and early on in the season you can kind of tell what type of players you’re going to have around and the truth to be told I see that here in this group. We’re pretty tight off the ice. We’ve been through a lot.
S.B.: Alaska looks beautiful, was it a great place to live and play?
T.M.: Not everyone get’s a chance to say they lived in Alaska for two years. It was definitely exciting. It was tough being so far away from home. The travel is great. You fly everywhere because you’re too far to bus. We were treated well. There’s not much hockey up there so we were pretty much in the spotlight the whole time. The fans are great, the city was great, and I’m grateful for my two years there.
S.B.: You’re a seasoned guy, how do you plan on being a mentor to some of the younger players on this Norfolk club?
T.M.: I think just the way you carry yourself in general. I think actions speak louder than words. Coming to the rink everyday with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic rubs off on the younger guys. Just being a pro everyday and taking care of yourself and taking care of your body when the time is right.
S.B.: You play a hard-nosed, pedal to the grindstone type of game. Have you always played that way?
T.M.: No, I think it started my first-year pro. I was always a skilled guy in juniors and college. Being a young guy out of school, my first-year I think I had to figure out a way to stick in the lineup every night. I knew I had the skill set and it’s always been there, but I had to figure out how to become a jack of all trades to where the coaching staff could feel comfortable putting me in different situations. I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder, but at the same time I think that I have the skill to play on the top two lines.
Norfolk Admirals Assistant Coach Ben Boudreau gave the Sin Bin his thoughts on Tom Mele and what he brings to the ice every game.
B.B.: Tom Mele has been great for us, he drives the net. He’s got quick hands, quick feet, and he finishes hits. He’s an aggressive player. He fights. He’s an irritating guy that can finish plays. He does everything, PK and power play. You ask him to do it and he’s going to go out there and perform. He’s been a great addition to the team so far and he’s been carrying the weight for the guys that have gone up.
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