When the pandemic hit, Whistler hockey player Tyler Welsh lost his final season of eligibility at Yale University. And after coming off a very strong season, both individually and as a team, the loss of his senior year was a devastating blow at first.
“It was a pretty great three years there,” said Tyler. “My third year I kind of got a lot more responsibility and was playing pretty well, but it was a little unfortunate that we had just won in double overtime in the first round of a playoff series when the playoffs got cancelled from COVID.
“It was really disappointing, we had a really good group of guys coming back, like our whole top line, myself and the two other guys were all returning so we were definitely looking forward to that, so it was really disappointing seeing other college hockey teams playing while we were just sitting there not able to do anything about it.”
But with the awful news came a couple of silver linings. For one, Tyler was able to focus on school and finish the final year of his economics degree. Second, with the NCAA announcing that all players get an additional year of eligibility, it opened up the opportunity to do something he never thought would have been possible at this level—to play with his brother Nolan at Long Island University.
“I definitely wish we would have got a senior year at Yale but at the same time it definitely is a cool opportunity, and one that I never would have expected to happen, so it is a little bit of a cool thing that happened out of a negative for sure,” said Tyler.
“Once they announced that they were giving everyone an extra year I kind of thought that it might have been a possibility and I guess everything worked out exactly how I envisioned it when I first kind of got the idea that it would be possible to play with [Nolan].”
Luckily for Nolan, he was able to get his legs under him in the NCAA as LIU, at least, had a shortened season, playing a total of 15 games, both regular season and pre-season. But as far as rookie seasons go, this was one of the more unusual ones, with Nolan having to balance the first year at a new level with a world-wide pandemic while playing for a brand new program.
“It was a pretty crazy experience, I didn’t really know what to expect going in and there were a lot of times where plans changed and games got cancelled,” said Nolan. “Looking back, I’m just really fortunate to really have the season that we had, because there were teams that weren’t able to play at all, so I’d say it was a success.”
Nolan, who led his team with seven points in 12 games is pumped about adding an experienced player like his brother and is hoping the addition helps in his goal to improve on his own strong rookie season.
“I’m pretty happy with the offensive points I was able to put up last season. Next season is going to be kind of the same challenge; I’m looking to be in the same offensive role with my team. hopefully our team will be able to have a little more success offensively and hopefully that will translate to me having more success as well,” he said.
“I really never thought that [playing with my brother] would be a possibility, so when it came, and it was able to work out I was pretty excited. Not a lot of people get to play with their brother at this high of a level so it’s going to be a really cool opportunity.”
But it’s not just Nolan and Tyler who are excited about the prospect of playing together. Their dad Greg, who wasn’t able to see either of his boys play live at all last year is also pumped about the possibility of being able to get out and watch them play at the same time.
“It’s a parent’s dream to have your kids play together on one team and when Tyler lost his year due to the pandemic and he put his name into the transfer portal, LIU called and he just felt it was going to be a really good fit. But yeah, for me, it’s just going to be really exciting,” said Greg.
“I’ve got some extended time off coming up so I’ll get to as many [games] as I can. We haven’t even seen [Nolan’s] campus, let alone watched a game, so it’s going to be quite interesting.”
With the addition of some veteran experience in the form of his brother and the other transfer players, Nolan is expecting The Sharks to remain competitive and improve on their 3-10-0 season from last year.
“I think the team is really fortunate to get a player like [Tyler]. We were kind of missing players like that last year with having such a young team, so his experience is going to be big for us as well as the success he’s had putting up points,” said Nolan.
“For us and the team, we still feel like we have a lot to prove, as a program. We didn’t really get the full season we were hoping to get, but next year is an even bigger opportunity and an even bigger step forward that we can take, and we still have a lot to prove to everyone in the league that we can be a top program.”