Newest IceHog has rich Blackhawks heritage

by Chris Etheridge || AHL On The Beat Archive

mosienko_200.jpg Rockford IceHogs center Tyler Mosienko doesn’t need to look too far to remember where he came from.

He just has to open the 2008-09 Chicago Blackhawks wall calendar to March to find a picture of his grandfather, Bill Mosienko, a 1965 inductee in the Hockey Hall of Fame and five-time NHL All-Star.

The grainy black-and-white, full-toothed grin of a young Mosienko holding up a trio of pucks was taken in 1952 to commemorate the night the Chicago Blackhawks forward entered the NHL record book with a hat trick in just 21 seconds against the New York Rangers.

The Blackhawks’ annual calendar is adorned this season with major dates marking the long history of one of the Original Six teams.

The Winnipeg native played his rookie season in the AHL with the Providence Reds, and finished his 14-year National Hockey League career – every season (1941-55) with the Chicago Blackhawks – with 258 goals and 282 assists in 710 games.

And just a couple of weeks before the 58th anniversary of that record-setting night in New York, Bill’s grandson learned he would be joining the Rockford IceHogs, American Hockey League affiliates of those same Blackhawks, to fill in some gaps left by recent recalls and injuries.

A Las Vegas Wranglers (ECHL) centerman for the majority of 2008-09, Tyler is in his second go-round with an AHL team this season and third overall. He signed a professional tryout agreement with the IceHogs on Mar. 10 after appearing in nine games with the Manchester Monarchs earlier this year and making his AHL debut with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on March 18, 2008.

“I’ll take what I can get,” Tyler said. “Ultimately I’d like to be somewhere permanently for a year in the American League and work my way up to the NHL. It’s obviously a pretty good thing to get called up. I’ve always played with AHL and NHL guys in the summer time and in juniors, so physically and mentally I have what I need to be able to play up here and now it’s just a matter of getting the opportunity.”

After a five-year junior career with the Kelowna Rockets (WHL), Tyler has racked up 206 points (71 goals, 135 assists) in 257 games in four seasons in the ECHL. But in a hockey world that is increasingly looking for bigger and stronger players, the 5-foot-8 (just like his grandfather) and 175-pound pivot has more to prove.

mosienko-b_200.jpgBack home in suburban Manitoba, the Mosienko family has a lot of pride in what their modest patriarch achieved in professional hockey, Tyler said. Bill was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame, is an honored member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and was named a Manitoba All-Century First-Team All-Star.

The bowling alley in Manitoba that Bill started during his hockey career has been run by the Mosienko family for more than 60 years.

“He was a really humble guy,” Tyler said. “He had a really good career, but he never liked to brag about it. The thing he did talk about a lot was the friends that he made and the things that he got out of life, not so much the game itself.”

When Tyler was learning to skate, he remembers seeing his grandfather strap on an old pair of leather tube skates to join his grandson on the ice in their home-made backyard rink. Bill died of cancer when Tyler was 10.

The younger Mosienko has the same build that his grandfather did. He’s the smallest player on the IceHogs roster, but he’s quick and smart on the ice. Now it’s just a matter of permanently finding his way on to an AHL roster.

“I’m a little guy so I have to work a little harder,” he said. “Ever since I was 5 or 6, I wanted to play in the NHL and that’s my major goal in life. I want to make it as high as I can. I’m not exactly where I want to be, but I find myself pretty lucky to be doing what I am doing.”

And while he’s looking for a spot on any American Hockey League team, Tyler said he is aware that playing for the affiliate of his grandfather’s team does have an extra special meaning.

“This means a little bit because of the family history, but in reality it doesn’t mean a heck of a lot because I have to do my job and the management has to do their job,” Tyler said. “Deep down if there is a place I would like to go, it would be here.”

And skating on one of Rockford’s top offensive lines, Tyler said he believes that this is a good chance to show the AHL brass what he can do.

“This is the best opportunity I’ve had in the American League,” he said. “Being able to play with guys like (Jack) Skille and (Bryan) Bickell has obviously made it more fun.”