By Suzanne Grove
After a morning practice at the War Memorial Arena, the Tomahawks locker room and adjacent corridors are loud with music, laughter, and witty conversation. The smell of hockey equipment – a sensory experience familiar to every player, parent, sibling, and billet family who knows the sport well – permeates the area. It mixes with the distinct aroma that every hockey rink carries: An odd but loveable combination of freshly-cut ice, the vulcanized rubber of pucks, exhaust from the Zamboni, and something inexplicable that comes in the very bones of all old barns like the War Memorial.
Tomahawks forward Cody Gylling is at home here, surrounded by the sport he loves.
“I started playing roller hockey when I was around three years old,” he explains. “Then, I got into a ‘Learn to Skate’ program when I was five, and I loved it and kept with it.”
Anyone can tell just how much he loved it by the expression of contentment on his face and the hint of joy shimmering in his eyes. While he wears a much sterner, game-ready face moments before hitting the ice for the team’s home matchups, his shoulders relax and he is at ease around the locker room.
In fact, some of his favorite hockey moments occur off the ice: He appreciates the time hockey allows him to spend with his teammates, who have also become close friends. Whether they are in the locker room after a morning skate, traveling on the bus to do battle with a division rival, or eating a pre-game meal in the comfort of a billet family’s home, the team has a tight bond, forged by a lot of laughter and a good mix of personalities.
“It’s such a great time being with the guys,” Gylling offers. “It’s one of the things I love most about it. I always have a good time on the bus. Those trips are a lot of fun, mostly because you get to spend time together as a team.”
But, like most of the teammates he stops to chat with while waiting for Ian Spencer, with whom he shares a billet family, Gylling recognizes the seriousness of every game and the fact there are always two points on the line.
When asked to describe his absolute favorite things about hockey, Gylling did not hesitate with his response: “The competition, and the atmosphere when you’re playing a game. But, definitely, the competitiveness of the game.”
Gylling, who grew up in Chandler, AZ, thrives off the pressure. He currently leads his team in points with 15 (5-10-15). His 10 assists also lead the team. He has proven to be a dominant force for the Tomahawks, having notched six points in his last five games, and he’s been an effective goal scorer, finishing plays at key times.
Gylling says that despite their passion for hockey, he and his teammates still try to remain level-headed at all times during games.
“We try to stay even-keeled and mentally strong and calm throughout every game,” he said. “You have to have a good attitude.”
It’s that kind of approach that adds to his maturity and intelligence. In fact, he says that if he had never become a hockey player, he might be attending Arizona State University to study business.
Luckily for Johnstown and its fans, Gylling isn’t spending his weekday mornings in a lecture hall, but rather lacing up the skates for the Tomahawks.