By Angelo Mazziotti
Playing any sport at a high level can make for a pretty busy, hectic schedule.
For one local athlete though, one sport just isn’t enough.
Mike Cazzola, 20, of Guelph is running out of room on his resume. A standout on the Guelph Regals Junior B lacrosse team, Cazzola is also a star centre for the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters.
“It gets pretty hectic,” said Cazzola. “I’ve always been a pretty busy guy, whether it be summer hockey or lacrosse. I’ve been doing it ever since I was 5 or 6 years old so to me, it all seems pretty normal.”
Cazzola, who works in the shipping/receiving department at Cargill during the lacrosse season, broke down his everyday routine.
“I will usually wake up at 5:30 a.m., to be ready for work at 6:30 a.m.,” he said. “I work until 3 p.m., and then it’s off to the gym from 5-6:30p.m. I’ll grab a quick bite to eat and then I play lacrosse from 7:30-10 p.m. So I don’t have a lot of downtime but when I do I like to take full advantage of it.”
Cazzola, who is entering his overage year with the Otters, said the worst part of it all is when the seasons overlap.
“This year we (the Otters) went seven games against Windsor. So by the time I got back, I had missed the first three or four games with the Regals,” he said.
“I didn’t even get time to practice before being thrown in there, so yeah, it definitely keeps me in shape and keeps me pretty busy.”
Cazzola’s coach in Erie is Robbie Ftorek, a former National Hockey League centre who played for the former Quebec Nordiques, the Detroit Red Wings and the New York Rangers.
Cazzola says playing under Ftorek for his OHL career has definitely been an advantage for him.
“Its great playing for a guy like that with so much NHL experience,” said Cazzola. “He sees the game a lot differently than a lot of other guys. It has definitely been a learning curve for me but it has paid dividends, for sure.”
Cazzola said his coach’s love for the game rubs off on everyone.
“He coaches with a lot of passion,” said Cazzola. “Everything he does, whether it be behind the bench or joking around with the guys in the dressing room, he does it with passion.”
So which of the two sports does Cazzola prefer? He says he is just happy playing both.
“This is definitely the question I get asked most often,” said Cazzola, laughing. “I really enjoy the balance of them both. After nearly 80 games with the Otters combined with practice – a lot of times I’m on the ice twice a day – it definitely takes its toll.”
“When I’m all ‘hockey-ed out,’ it’s nice to make the switch over to lacrosse. It keeps everything fresh and keeps the passion for both games alive.”
A quick Google search of Cazzola will produce many videos of his hockey fights and rough play. Cazzola said he will always fight when called upon but would rather be known as a balanced player, whatever the sport.
“I would definitely say I want to be an all-around player whether it be in hockey or lacrosse,” said Cazzola. “One thing I really work on is face-offs. I want to be a guy that my coach can throw out there with two minutes left to win an important faceoff or score the winning goal or make a nice pass to a teammate. That’s the type of player I work hard on being everyday.”
Cazzola said growing up in Guelph and playing with the Regals, he got used to seeing the passion of Canadian fans. Any fears of American hockey fans being less than raucous were thrown out the window the minute he arrived at the Tullio Arena in Erie, PA.
“Believe it or not, Erie has probably the top five loudest arenas in the OHL,” Cazzola said. “I heard the stereotype of American hockey fans, but we have nothing but great fans over there. It can get pretty crazy in that building.”
As for a possible future in the National Hockey League, Cazzola says he is just being patient for the time being.
“I haven’t been to any camps or anything like that yet,” he said. “It’s definitely a goal of mine and I’m working towards the NHL, for now though, I’m still just waiting to get my call.”