The Atlanta Gladiators finished the season 5th in the South Division and unfortunately missed out on the Kelly Cup Playoffs. I was fortunate enough to team up with Gladiator Director of Broadcast and Communications Liam Gotimer to sit down with some of the boys and ask them some questions as we close out the 2022-23 season and start thinking about next season.
Question: How long until you stop dwelling on the past season, and when during the offseason does hockey start to creep back into your mind?
Forward Josh Thrower: It’s tough when the season ends, obviously we’re looking forward to getting home and being with family and everything, but I mean, hockey is what we do for a living, and it’s our lives, so I mean, it’s nice to take a little break, but once we get back, I’ll probably say after a couple of weeks, we can get back in that headspace, get back on the ice and start working out again.
Forward/Defense Zach Yoder: I don’t know, I try to dwell in the past too much; I’m kind of an optimistic guy, so I’d say within the week, you know, start looking forward to next year. I’ll probably take two or three weeks off of everything and then slowly start working out again, and then maybe in early June, maybe late May, start getting back on the ice, but it’s definitely good with the 72-game season to have some time off the ice.
Forward Cody Sylvester: you know it’s always hard to end your season early and not make the playoffs, especially when you’re that close to to getting in at the end, and obviously, you’re gonna dwell on it for a bit, and you know all those questions come back but what if we did this, or what if we did that, but you know it’ll take a couple weeks and then you kind of push that behind you and you start looking forward to the next year.
Question: During the playoff push, are you guys aware of the day-to-day standings? Do you keep up with the other teams on any given day?
Thrower: I mean, we look on the websites, and I mean especially in a division which was as close as it was this year, you know you kind of had to. Every morning we come into the rink, and we have the standings inside our dressing room there, so let’s go and check.
Yoder: Oh yeah, definitely, when you’re trying to make playoffs, and you’re battling with a couple of teams, you’re checking the game games every night to see who wins and see who’s, you know jockeying for position.
Sylvester: Yeah, for sure; I mean, you’re looking at it every day, and especially when you’re that close, the South Division was close all year, and coming to the end, four to six points from getting in and you got eight to ten games left so you’re looking at that every day. Like I said, it was just tough going down. I think we were knocked out by the third or fourth to last game, which sucked, but you know it was it was close.
Question: What will the offseason consist of for you, doing some travel or hanging out with family, that kind of stuff?
Thrower: yeah, just go home, kind of enjoy my time with family for the first couple weeks, and then yeah, get back to work, start getting on the ice, like I said, and get training.
Yoder: Oh yeah, this, this summer I’m getting married in June, so I’ve got I’ve got that big event and then my honeymoon is in Greece, so I definitely got some travel there. I’ve got two other weddings that my buddies are having, so I got those. I got one or two other trips, so this summer is going to consist of a lot of traveling, which I love doing, and it’ll be fun. Outside of that, just working and training hockey.
Sylvester: Yeah, you know it’s hard with having a family during the year and missing out on time with them. We’re on the road a lot, so I’ll be taking some time to enjoy the family time. I got a one-year-old at home, so it would be great to bond with him and get that time back that I lost during the year.
Question: Specifically for Josh, I was at the last game against the Jacksonville Icemen in Jacksonville, where you were subsequently suspended for the final two games after an incident at the end of the game. Can you talk about that?
Thrower: I mean, we play the teams inside our division quite a bit, so you know, we kinda know those guys over there, and I’ve been here for three years, and you know, tensions were high, and things are going to happen, few things are said and done, and yeah it’s just kind of one thing leads to another, and that happens.
Question: To Zach, what’s it like playing for a team in your backyard where you grew up? Is there more pressure playing in front of family and friends? Also, you played a little more forward than defense at the end of the season, what was that transition like?
Yoder: I wouldn’t say it’s pressure. Honestly, it’s pretty fun, obviously, playing hockey in the South, you know, growing up, there’s not a lot of games out here, so I played a bunch in Chicago and Michigan, and I played College in Michigan, so I never got to play in front my friends and family so honestly it’s pretty special when all my friends and my family get to come to the games so that’s a good time.
As far as forward, yeah, coach just asked me if I would be willing to play because we were down guys, and yeah, I enjoy it; it’s fun. Its a lot less responsibility than on defense, so it’s fun flying around out there for sure.
Question: This one is to Cody. What does making the All-ECHL 2nd Team mean to you as well as owning the Atlanta Gladiators single season record for goals scored?
Sylvester: it’s big for me, you know, I don’t think I’ve ever made a second team All-Star, or any All-Star team for that matter. It was a great honor to make that team, and you know, I had a pretty decent year this year, and I had a lot of help from my teammates, and I couldn’t have done it without them.
Question: Follow up for Cody. The top line with yourself, Sanghoon Shin, and Mike Pelech scored almost at will this year. What was the chemistry like for you guys?
Sylvester: Yeah, I thought chemistry was pretty good as a line this year. We had (Eric) Neiley at the start, and he went down halfway through with an injury, and then Shiner, he’s a great player, and he stepped into that role pretty well, and you know us three kinds of just clicked throughout the year, and all three of us had a pretty decent year.
Question: We’ll do a couple of fun ones, and then we will let you go. Stanley Cup winner?
Thrower: I’m going to say Boston, Boston is a powerhouse right now. I’ve always liked following them, and I think it’s going to be fun watching them.
Yoder: We talked about this on the way home on the bus, and I looked at it, and just given what I saw, I’d say Boston and Edmonton are my two picks.
Question: I’ve been to some of the jersey auctions that the team does, and some of the jerseys go for high prices. Do you guys’ chirp each other about that, or bet on who will go the highest?
Yoder: Oh, not really, we just go, “Oh wow, his jersey went for that,” like, “damn, that’s a lot of money,” but something like, “Oh, mine goes for more than yours” no, not really, we just are happy the fans want them and are willing to pay some money for them.
Sylvester: No, not really; we like to see the prices going up, I mean, there is maybe a little competition, but we know whose is going to go up the highest. Usually, its Neiley or the Thrower brothers.
Thank you again to Liam for allowing me access to the team and to Josh, Zach, and Cody for answering some questions. We all cannot wait to see them again on the ice!