With Taylor Pyatt plying his trade as a member of the Vancouver Canucks and younger brother Tom Pyatt, both a champion at the Junior hockey level and currently in the New York Rangers system, it’s obvious that in this case, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree where his father, former NHL centre Nelson Pyatt, was concerned.
During a seven year career that saw him play for the Detroit Red Wings, Washington Capitals and the then Colorado Rockies before retiring in 1982 following two years in Europe, it’s clear that Nelson Pyatt became the inspiration for the big Canucks winger and as such, forged a relationship that continues to this day, often providing much needed advice when the game doesn’t always go the way one hopes.
“Especially now,” admits Pyatt. “When I have a tough game or go through a tough stretch, it’s nice to be able to call my dad and have someone there to talk to that’s gone through it. When I was young, he just let us have fun and he didn’t put too much pressure on us to go out and play. We wanted to do it ourselves, and he didn’t put any extra pressure on us.”
For any child, having a professional hockey player for a father can translate into instant popularity among one’s peer group. Taylor Pyatt found that certainly to be the case.
“It was pretty neat for sure,” he says. “He would always come out to practice and he coached us for a few years when we were young. “That was pretty cool to have someone that made it to the NHL; to play at that level and then play a bit over in Europe - yeah it was pretty neat to have a dad that played professionally.” SLIP OF THE TONGUE
Taylor Pyatt was selected as a first round draft pick by the New York Islanders in 1999. While the moment of hearing your name being selected should easily rank among a young players most cherished hockey memories, Pyatt’s announcement left a little something to be desired.
“It’s probably the most embarrassing moment that I’ve had,” he recalls. “I got drafted by the New York Islanders and it was one of the older Islanders scouts that got up and actually called out my dad’s name instead of mine. It’s pretty funny to look back at now.”
Despite the inadvertent reference to his father on what was his big day, Pyatt admits it was a thrill nonetheless to be rewarded with entry into the National Hockey League.
“It’s definitely the biggest day of your life up to that point,” he says, “and there’s always quite a bit of hype surrounding the draft, especially when you’re rated pretty high in the first round, so it was a lot of fun to go through. I only spent the one year on the Island but it was a really good learning experience and a great start to my career.” GOING WEST
Now in his seventh NHL season, Pyatt was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in July 2006 following three seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. There’s no question that the picturesque West Coast can be a welcome sight in anyone’s career, not to mention the fact that a return to Canada always proves to be the ideal environment in which to play the game of hockey.
“I was really excited to be coming to Vancouver, not only because it’s a beautiful city to live in, but it’s also got a great reputation as an organization and it’s got some of the greatest fans you’ll find anywhere,” he says. “I’ve really enjoyed it ever since I’ve been here.”
Growing up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, one of the traditional hockey hot beds of Canada, it’s almost a sure bet that many a young Canadian boy from those climes yearns to one day play for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Did Taylor Pyatt ever imagine himself with the Maple Leaf adorning his chest?
“No,” he says emphatically. “I was never a Leafs fan - I was always an Edmonton Oilers fan and Mark Messier was always my favourite player. When he went to the New York Rangers, I became a Rangers fan. I never cheered for the Leafs.” IN THE BLOODLINE
With a second member of the Pyatt family having made it to the NHL, Taylor can now pass along his seasoned advice to younger brother Tom, a prominent member of the Gold Medal-winning Canadian Under 20 teams at both the 2006 and 2007 World Junior Hockey Championships. It’s a subject big brother speaks of proudly.
“To win a Gold Medal at back-to-back World Juniors is quite an accomplishment,” he says, “and it was a lot of fun to watch him last year at Christmas time. I’m real proud of him and he’s having a pretty good start to his pro career this year in Hartford.”
Away from the rink, Taylor Pyatt describes himself as an avid outdoors type and as such has quickly acclimated himself to our local terrain, not to mention some of Vancouver’s best restaurants among which he lists Gotham Steakhouse and the Blue Water Café as personal favourites.
Feeling at home, in his first season with the Canucks last season, the physically intimidating left-winger set a career high for goals scored. He has continued this career progression with Vancouver and is on pace to set a career high for points in 2007.08.
This type of on-ice success begs to have the question asked – are hockey legends made or born? And while Pyatt’s hard work is evident, Canucks fans, who have come to know the hulking winger, have a suspicion that genetics help play a role.