Being one of the younger guys on the team often means somewhat of a lesser expectation from the coaching staff and fans but higher expectations from yourself to find your place on the team. However, it does produce a sense of drive to better your game higher than those already resting on their laurels of an assured place in the team. Daniel Szalinski has known this story well.

The man affectionately known as “Loaf” to his Melbourne Ice team-mates (for reasons we are unable to print, however we can say that the nickname was given to him by Todd Graham) has been a product of the Melbourne Ice system for a number of years.

The Geelong native learned how to play the game during the heyday of Geelong Ice Arena – now one of the many rinks in Melbourne consigned to the history books. After the closure of that facility Szalinski followed his passion all the way to the only two remaining rinks in town at the time, Bendigo and Oakleigh, averaging a 2.5 hour return commute to both from his residence in Geelong. The long journeys have been worth it though.

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“Winning the 3peat and winning u/18 Tange trophy 3 times in a row definitely ranks in my mind as my best hockey memories,” said Szalinski.

Apart from his role on the Melbourne Ice 3peat championship winning teams, Szalinski is also reknown for another part of AIHL history.

Two years ago, Szalinski was skating through centre ice on the receiving end of a breakout pass heading for the Gold Coast Blue Tongues net. The next thing he remembers is counting how many lights were hanging from the rafters above the Icehouse ice.

(For those unfamiliar, see for yourself here) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yj8lg6yETBk

Szalinski had this to say about the now infamous part of AIHL folklore. “From what I can remember of it, I can remember seeing the defenseman in front of me and then nothing until I got to the dressing room, but the publicity it received (no thanks to James Morgan) was crazy!” said Szalinski. “It’s become one of the most viewed videos of the AIHL in history and made several different forms of media.”

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As for the league’s health overall, Szalinksi remains succinct but realistic about the successes of the AIHL.
“The league is very competitive and just keeps on getting better. The biggest challenges are teams potentially dropping out and that some teams that aren’t drawing large crowds all the time, for whatever reason,” said Szalinski. “I would like to see the games one day broadcasted live on tv and a standard set across the league for rinks so things like video review could be implemented.”

With the Melbourne Ice squad being fiercely competitive to break into this season, particularly on a consistent basis, it often means those who don’t make the grade set by Brent Laver at Thursday night’s practice are left to their own devices until the following weekend.

When Szalinski is not selected to represent his hometown on the weekends, he still finds his own way to give back to the game: as a cameraman and production assistant for ATC Productions (arguably saving James Morgan’s job) and their coverage of the AIHL on Fox Sports and on the livestreams.

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“It’s been good fun. It’s a different side of the game and an important one as it allows fans who can’t make it to the game to support their team,” said Szalinski. “But he (Morgan) has been really good and is teaching me things every time I help out. It also gives me a greater respect to all the people that volunteer to make the league what it is and there is a ton of work to make the streams what they are, which many who watch aren’t aware of.”

Let’s just hope Szalinski’s as good a shot with the camera as he is with the stick. (Early accounts are debatable)