By Bethany Drysdale
One of the best parts of the last three months, covering the UNLV Rebels hockey team, has been our friendship with freshman Angelos Tsalafos (pronounced Sal-a-Fos) of Montreal, Canada. It was the Thursday before their first home game on September 13, when we first began chatting with Angelos. Blake, our young son, had begun his end-of-practice fist bumps to the players as they exited the ice. As Angelos was leaving by the nearside door he asked if we would be at the games that weekend. Yes of course we would!! He said he had something for Blake. We came to the Saturday game and watched the guys crush Colorado 7-0, but it was so busy after the game, we just went home. Angelos had been looking for us that night. He found us on Tuesday at the morning practice; much to our surprise he tossed an autographed puck up to Blake that he and Jordan Rea had signed. There is nothing in the world that can make a little kid feel like superstar than when a player they admire tosses them a puck. It currently sits on my son’s dresser in a plastic case, right next to Nate Schmidt and James Neal autographed pucks.
What we did not know then, but realized soon after, was the kind of person Angelos is on and off the ice. He is all heart and full of character. The following words, I cannot take credit, they come from Angelos himself: “Becoming a hockey player was not the easiest thing I had done in my life but it was surely the most rewarding one. The journey began in 2002 when my parents enrolled me in a “Can Skate” program. I ended up on my A#S more than on my feet but in the end it all paid off. It taught me something earlier on at a young age: never to give up.” Conditioning, training, and building strength year round is what keeps the edge on a good player. When you take a day off, it just means someone else is out there working harder and wanting it more. Angelos is a competitor, one who comes into a game with the desire to win and making his teammates better around him. Starting, as a freshman, in eight games, he has two assists going into the Christmas break.
Coming to UNLV was a chance Angelos was willing to gamble. His good friend and former teammate Jake Saxe recruited him to come over after playing in the WSHL. At age 21, Angelos is an experienced freshman who hopes to be part of the winning Rebels as they look to make the move to Division 1 NCAA in the future. With talent and determination, the freshman class is building on the foundations that have been laid these past few years in the program’s history (a subject in which he minors). A subject that is also close to Angelos’ heart is psychology, and keeps him very busy with homework off the ice. When he has some downtime, Angelos is typically watching his favorite NHL player, Brendan Gallagher, studying his moves and ways to improve his own play.
Finding the balance between school and sports is never easy, but that is what Angelos does best. “My moto was always to keep ‘proving people wrong.’ As I kept climbing up the ladder in hockey, I quickly realized that a lot of people are going to doubt you and try and bring you down. I faced many adversities throughout my career, injuries, the loss of my grandfather, being told I was not good enough, being asked by other ‘friends’ when I was going to quit hockey, and much more. It seemed like adversity was something I was good at facing, as throughout my whole life I kept conquering it.” Family has always been there to keep him motivated through struggles. The greatest gift a player can give is when they exemplify the hard work and values their parents taught them from the beginning. Whether it’s taking their first steps or first skate, parents love to see their kids having fun and realizing their dreams.