Tyler Hylland’s two-decade hockey career

The former Stinger’s trajectory wouldn’t be the same without his family and hockey program

Tyler Hylland skates back in the opposing zone during game three of the OUA East semifinals against the Queen’s Gaels. Photo Alice Martin

When Tyler Hylland was around three years old, his mother nudged him to try ice skating. With his uncle's girlfriend, Hylland would wake up with the sun to practice on a nearby rink in small-town Mercier, Que.

At around five years old, Hylland swiftly became skilled on his skates; this signalled to his parents to sign him up for hockey. Hylland would begrudgingly wake up at 5 a.m. on cold weekend mornings to attend his minor hockey league practices.

His mother used to dress him from head to toe in his hockey gear while still snug in bed. Yet, as soon as his skates touched the ice, his hatred for the piercing morning evaporated, watering the seeds that grew into an impressive hockey career—one he got to share four seasons with on the Stingers men's hockey team. 

"Once you get the passion, you just always want to play; whether it was street hockey, I just couldn't stop," Hylland said.

Having now finished his fourth and final season, the 25-year-old alternate captain for the Stingers men's hockey team anticipates graduation in human relations at the end of the semester. He led the team in goals this season, tied with Mathieu Bizier at ten goals. He noted he had no idea about his lead, as he focuses on how the team moves and wins together.

"He has a missile shot," said former teammate and Stingers forward Alex Katerinakis. "It's a real threat when he releases that puck."

Hylland wields a hard shot, one he owes to his grandfather.

When he took an interest in hockey, the two of them would get on the ice and exclusively shoot pucks for hours once a week. 

Before joining the Stingers, Hylland played in minor AAA hockey and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). His connections on these teams ultimately led to his career as a Stinger. 

At 15, Hylland met Marc-André Elément, the men’s hockey head coach at Concordia. Elément was then Hylland’s coach in AAA. The two had developed a close relationship. "When it came time for him to choose a university, we were after him," Elément said. 

In the QMJHL, Hylland met two of his closest friends in hockey, Phélix Martineau and Katerinakis, two guys he says he is just happy to share the ice with.

Martineau describes Hylland as a Swiss army knife: "He's got so many different tools in him, he can do pretty much anything."

Although Hylland's mother wanted him to choose McGill and their hockey program, his heart ultimately laid with Concordia. Elément, Martineau, Katerinakis, and the community the program fostered were all factors that led to his decision. "They believed [in] me and gave me a chance, and I just took it and ran with it," Hylland said.

The watershed moment of Hylland's Stinger career came in 2019—his first season on the team—during his first win against McGill as a Stinger. At the time, Hylland said the Redbirds were known as the “big brother” of the two hockey teams.

“If you played great in [the] QMJHL, you would go to McGill, if not Concordia,”  he said. That year, the Stingers beat the Redbirds in the playoffs. 

"We were a lot of first years; we're young, we weren't supposed to beat them, but we did," laughed Hylland.

To this day, Hylland says that the feeling of winning goes unmatched. This win was a massive step for the program, attracting many recruits the following season. The win sent a message, solidifying that Concordia is a serious team. 

"Since he got in, the program really took a step forward. And I think he is a big part of that," Martineau said.

In Hylland's third season, he felt his play was off as he began to go through a tough time when his mother grew ill. When his mother was moved to the hospital full-time, Hylland would spend time with her as much as he could. There were nights when he would sleep on the hospital floor and then head to practice early the next day. After practice, he would rush off the ice to check his phone to ensure his mother was still okay.

One day, he got off the ice with his father calling to let him know his mother's heart stopped beating and he needed to rush to the hospital. 

His mother was his biggest fan. "I never played a bad game in her eyes," smiled Hylland.

Throughout Hylland’s entire battle with his mom’s illness, the program remained nothing but full of love and support.

The team played a huge role in healing for Hylland. The whole team was present at his mother's funeral and wore stickers with his mother's initials on their helmets.

When Hylland returned to hockey, he knew his mother wasn't suffering anymore; she was at peace, and there was nothing else to think about, just play. He returned with explosive play.

"Hockey was huge in the fact that it gave me somewhere to let my energy go," said Hylland. "I don't know where my grieving process would be without hockey."

A month later, Hylland was invited to play for Team Canada at FISU, where his team ended up in the final round against Team USA. It was the last event of the entire 2023 FISU Winter Games, and the Lake Placid Herb Brooks Arena was sold out. 

Halfway through the FISU games Hylland had lost another family member, his grandmother. Amidst his series of wins with Team Canada, Hylland took a day to drive to spend time with his family, missing a team meeting, before returning to Lake Placid to finalize the team’s win.

Team Canada ended up clinching the gold 7-2, with Hylland making a goal during the game. To say Hylland and his family were overjoyed would be an understatement. He said the win was good for his family to get their minds off the situation.

With his mother passing, his grandmother passing during FISU and his gold medal, there were a lot of emotions for him and his family—who all attended his win.

Hylland took a lot of pride and loved playing for Team Canada; it was one of the best moments in his career.

On Feb. 24, the Stingers men's hockey team played their final game of the season and the curtains closed on Hylland’s time as a Stinger. Although they lost to McGill in game two of the Ontario University Athletics East semifinals, Hylland couldn't have been prouder of the effort the team left on the ice.

As of March 2, the Trois-Rivières Lions signed Hylland as a forward till the remainder of the season. After the season, a concrete decision is yet to be made for Hylland’s future as he explores all plausible options, whether he plays pro overseas or scoops up a separate job offer. 

However, one thing is certain: hockey is all he has ever known. He cannot see his life without hockey or his loved ones who've supported him throughout his career, and he will always be checking in on “the guys.”

"He went through a lot last year with his mom," said Elément. "I am just happy for him to get his degree and be part of the impact that he had on this program; it's huge. It's emotional to talk about your players; he's just a great human being, and all the staff and everyone here, we just wish him the best with his future."

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 11, published March 5, 2024.