By Michael McHugh
Joey Tetarenko recently found himself in an unusual situation.
Last summer, with the lockout coming, he didnt really have many opportunities to play hockey. So he got a job as an investment banker, refinancing houses and mortgages back home in Louisville, Ky. But he quickly realized, that was not his calling. He missed the team atmosphere and most of all, playing hockey. Its all hed ever done, and he longed to get back to it.
Back in February, Tetarenko received a phone call. It was a familiar voice on the other end.
He (Aeros head coach Todd McLellan) called and asked me if I wanted to come down and play for the Aeros, Tetarenko said. I said for sure Id love to, and here I am.
Tetarenko left the mortgage banking job and came back to his first love hockey.
Im still a young guy, so I thought that I would have a couple of good years left playing hockey, said the 26-year-old right wing.
McLellans and Tetarenkos paths first crossed when, at 14-years-old, Tetarenkos family moved to North Battleford, Sask., where McLellan was coaching a junior team.
He would watch me play, said Tetarenko. I got to know him really well and he got to know my family. I played against him a lot through juniors. When I played in Portland, he was the coach in Swift Current and we always played against his team and when I was in San Antonio (with the Rampage), I played against him as well.
Although new to the Aeros roster, hes no stranger to hockey. The Prince Albert, Sask., native started skating when he was three and playing hockey at five. Hockey was a family affair, with his dad and brothers playing as well. As a kid, he was well rounded in sports. In addition to hockey, he also played golf, baseball and volleyball. One sport he would have liked to have played, but didnt get the opportunity, was football.
He was Floridas fourth-round pick in the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. A Memorial Cup winner in 1998, he spent four years with the WHLs Portland Winterhawks before making his professional debut with the New Haven Beast in 1998. He spent two more seasons in the AHL with the Louisville Panthers and made his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers in 2000. He had his best professional season with AHL San Antonio in 2002-03 with 16 points (4-12=16) and 123 penalty minutes. He spent another season with the Panthers before being dealt to the Ottawa Senators in 2002-03. He also saw time with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Lowell Lock Monsters.
His proudest moment was winning the Memorial Cup. It was a long season, and it was excellent to win the Memorial Cup and have it in our dressing room at the end of the year, Tetarenko said. It was the greatest achievement to finish out the season winning.
When walking into the Aeros locker room, he saw some familiar faces. One was defenseman John Erskine, who in the past, he shared fisticuffs with when Erskine was with the Dallas Stars and Tetarenko with the Panthers.
Johns a big strong guy and he gave me a lot of pretty good punches, laughed Tetarenko. I actually have the fight on tape and a lot of people have seen it. I have a lot of respect for him because he can really play the game and hes a really tough competitor too.
Joey not only brings toughness to this Aeros team, he also brings along a strong character and a rich heritage. His mother is Native Canadian and is from the Chippewa tribe and his father is half Indian and half French, which is called Metis. His grandfather had the Ukrainian name.
He thinks his greatest strength as a player is his competitive nature. Hes not afraid to drop the gloves, and whether its running around or fighting, he always wants to be in the middle of things.
Im not a great skater, goal scorer, or anything like that, he said. But I always try to be physical and thats the best part of my game.
Being an enforcer on a team also brings cheers and jeers from the crowds. When asked what his favorite crowd heckle of all time was, he laughed shaking his head and replied, There was a lady in Portland who used to yell out Stinko Tetarenko, and thats always stuck in my mind. I thought it was really funny.
He has lots of favorite hockey stories that he could talk about for hours, but his favorite topic is his family. His idea of perfect happiness is hanging out with his wife and two kids.
I love being around my family. I have an 8-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son, and just seeing the smiles on their faces is what makes me happy.
As the Aeros gear up for the playoffs, Tetarenko plans to do everything he can to help get them there. Im just glad to be back competing again, he said.
JUST FOR FUN:
Q: Its midnight and you cant sleep, what movie do you plug in?
JT: Braveheart. But if its midnight and I cant sleep, you might as well pump me up to go do something.
Q: Any special rituals before a game?
JT: Not really. Just the average stuff. I have pre-game, a nap in the afternoon, come down to the rink and tape my sticks and talk with the guys, have a cup of coffee and get ready to go. Nothing too crazy.
Q: Where do you live in the off-season?
JT: I live in Louisville, Ky., where my wife is from. Its not a real hockey hotbed, but my wife is from there and we have a house there.
Q: Where would you like to go for a vacation?
JT: I would love to take my wife to Alaska because that is where she was born and shes never been back. She moved to Kentucky when she was 4-years-old and shes never been back to the place she was born so Id like to take her to Alaska.
Q: The thing people find most interesting about me is
JT: Probably that I quit playing hockey for most of one year to be an investment banker. When Im out on the ice fighting a lot, people dont think I would be one to sit behind a computer and work in the office. A lot of people look at me kind of funny when I tell them thats what I was doing.