A special thank you to Elie Kobain for shooting and directing this interview.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon and the Mississauga Steelheads new Assistant coach, Michael Nylander, leaves the ice after a two hour practice. It’s a quick break because just moments after the pucks have been cleaned up, Michael steps back onto the ice to put in some additional time with a younger player. He goes through skating and shooting drills with him. While the player takes a breather – Michael does the drills himself, skating with the ease and passion that has made him a hockey icon.
“It’s not the same, but it’s the closest thing I believe,” he says with a grin when asked about the void of hockey being filled through coaching.
You can hear his instructions to the players from where my camera man and I are stationed in the stands. Laughter is mixed into their conversation, despite his strict coaching style. We’re at the Hershey Centre, a rink both Michael and his son, Alex now call home.
It’s been a smooth move, a lifestyle Nylander is no stranger to. He played with seven different NHL teams over the course of his respectable career. His name became even more popular in the Greater Toronto Area when his eldest son William was drafted to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014. On this day though, I’m more interested in seeing how he’s enjoying his new lifestyle in the Ontario Hockey League – judging by his mood, he’s happy with his new job.
There are many questions you would like to ask the 43-year-old who’s still very much involved in the game. Michael’s hockey career has been unique – just two years ago, he joined his eldest son (William) on the ice along with Sodertalje EK of the Swedish Pro league. Now, with the World Juniors Tournament approaching – it’s possible the family will reconnect on the ice again, with the two brothers (William and Alex) potentially competing for Sweden.
Having Michael around a highly touted prospect group on the Steelheads has proven beneficial for the organization, especially when he joins in on the training,
“I make the guys a little looser…I try to beat them sometimes,” says Michael.
It’s his combination of fun and detailed coaching that seems to be working for everyone. Michael’s just happy to take the ice in any capacity, it’s evident in the extra time he puts in at the Hershey Centre that afternoon
When he joins us in the stands, his contentment is evident, not just for his own success in hockey but for his sons’. He is radiating with pride.
Alex, William and Michael are enjoying some quality father-son time living together. Michael’s wife and daughters are still in Sweden, arranging a move over. In the meantime, Michael says it’s a lot of Xbox and arguing over who does the dishes.
The relationship between the three talented players is unique, and Alex and William have both been able to learn from their father and the life he lived while playing professional hockey, “they have grown up experiencing what NHL players do…it’s a normal lifestyle for them,” says Michael. A lifestyle that seems to be just around the corner for his sons – William currently holds the AHL scoring lead with the Marlies while Alex leads all rookies in scoring in the OHL.
So, Michael will sit back and enjoy watching his sons inch closer and closer to the NHL. In the meantime, he’ll also enjoy his coaching and bus trips in the OHL, he is the one picking the movies on the bus after all.
WATCH THE FULL INTERVIEW ABOVE.