Growing up, Tyler Bertuzzi was good at lying to his father.
It wasn’t because Bertuzzi was bad. The kid just wanted to play hockey and nothing was going to stop him. Not sickness or injury. Sometimes, not even reasoning.
In bantam, Bertuzzi once tried to fake he was fine despite suffering from the flu. His father wasn’t going to bring him to the game. When lying didn’t work, Bertuzzi used force. He demanded to go. Bertuzzi was going to the game, and playing, and nothing was going to change it.
Bertuzzi went to the game and competed and between shifts, he left the bench to vomit. Bertuzzi would play every game sick or injured, if he had to. It wouldn’t matter to him as long as he was playing hockey.
“Nothing would stop me from playing hockey,” said the 18-year-old. “I always want to be on the ice.”
Bertuzzi plays for the Guelph Storm in the Ontario Hockey League. And when he steps onto the ice, look out, because all hell breaks loose.
Bertuzzi’s enthusiasm for the game and his fierce competitive nature causes quite a buzz from opponents and fans. In a late regular season game in Sudbury, Bertuzzi was a wrecking ball and hero. He threw a ton of hits and was under the skin of nearly every foe. He also stepped up and scored two goals, including the game winner. He left a big impression for his family and friends who were watching their hometown boy put on a show.
“Every shift, I’m all heart and give my all,” he said. “I don’t let anything get in my way and play every shift like it was my last. I’ve always been this way. I’ve always had lots of energy. It’s not easy to do, but that is how I play and I’m not going to change.”
It is this genuine grit and guts that made Bertuzzi a high, and in many circles, surprising second-round pick by the Detroit Red Wings (58th overall) in the 2013 National Hockey League Entry Draft. He had no idea he was going to be selected early.
Bertuzzi was watching the draft at home with family and friends. He was moments away from leaving to go for a boat ride with friends when Detroit came up and said his name. It was a moment that turned Bertuzzi upside down.
“It hasn’t sunk in fully,” he said. “It was a dream of mine growing up to be drafted. It’s amazing it became a reality. Now I have to train harder and keep pushing myself to my limits.”
Guelph general manager, Mike Kelly, had a phone pasted to the side of his head in the months and weeks leading up to the draft because of the buzz Bertuzzi created in the limited games he played during the 2012-13 season — he missed 25 games due to head and neck injuries.
“Tyler was the player we got the most calls on from NHL teams,” Kelly said. “He has the heart of a lion and is fearless. When the hockey gets tough, he rises to the occasion and plays his best. Away from the games, he is easy-going and light-hearted, but when the puck drops, he is nothing but serious. He’s not just about grit. He makes good decisions, has a good feel for the game and good hands. He’s not one-dimensional.”
Father, Adrian Gedye, doesn’t mind he had to put up with the shenanigans pulled by Bertuzzi as he grew up. It was hard for him to deny a kid so dedicated and passionate about the game. Gedye has watched what Bertuzzi has put into the game and sacrifices he’s made, day-after-day.
Bertuzzi has proven doubters wrong for a long time. He’s not the biggest player (currently listed as six-feet and 170-pounds, but Bertuzzi says he’s 6-foot-1 now) and has had to battle for everything he’s earned, including respect.
He wasn’t rated high for the OHL draft, but Guelph stepped up and grabbed him in the fourth round that year. They saw something in him. He was ranked low by NHL Central Scouting — 207th overall, but Detroit stepped up and took him late in the second round. They obviously saw something in him.
Gedye has seen it every step of the way.
“His compete level is off the charts,” Gedye said. “Teammates love him and opponents hate him. He drives them crazy. He drives everyone crazy. This is a kid who loves the game. A lot.”