Tyler Spezia is having a fun summer.
The Bowling Green sophomore forward skated in the World Inline Hockey Championships last month in Finland.
Now, he’s playing summer hockey with a group of current pro and college players.
Among those he’s skating with are Detroit Red Wings’ defenseman Danny DeKeyser and Buffalo Sabres’ forward David Legwand.
Spezia was the second-leading scorer for the United States team during the world inline championships. He had three goals and five assists in five games as the U.S. posted a 3-2 record, including an overtime loss.
The U.S. was fifth in the tournament, losing 5-2 to Sweden in the quarterfinals of the eight-team tournament.
“Any time you get a chance to represent your country, there’s a sense of pride that comes with it, and to play for my country, with a great group of guys and for a first-class organization, was unbelievable,” Spezia said.
Spezia is from Clinton Township, Michigan, northeast of Detroit.
The tournament was well-supported by the Finnish fans, Spezia said, adding the host country’s games drew approximately 8,000 fans per contest. Canada was a 4-2 winner over Finland in the championship game.
“Going overseas and seeing a different culture and playing against those guys, was a great experience, not only for me, but my family as well,” Spezia said. “Having them see me play on the big stage was awesome.”
Spezia said Finland had 22 hours of sunlight each day during the team’s stay there and the summer was very warm, but the hotel didn’t have air conditioning, and wasn’t the only adjustment he had to make.
“It was pretty tough to sleep,” Spezia said. “The food was tricky to get used to,” Spezia said. “You never really knew what you were eating. One time we thought we were eating chicken and it turned out to be Elk meat.”
Spezia has played inline hockey, also known as roller hockey, since he was young. He started playing because his brothers played the sport as well.
The world championships were played 4 on 4 on a surface that measured 200 feet long by 100 feet wide.
“The games are very competitive and most people don’t realize there is a big stage for the sport,” Spezia said. “There are a ton of ice hockey guys who play. You have to play hard. You have to play smart. You have to play tough. It’s non-contact and the referees call the stick work.
“There’s a lot of room for guys to use their speed and offensive skill, but the European teams play a more defensive game.”
Spezia also played in the world championships last year in the Czech Republic where the U.S. earned a bronze medal.
“We were disappointed with our finish this year. We just didn’t get the job done,” Spezia said.
Although Spezia has been playing inline hockey since he was young, he didn’t start playing ice hockey until he was approximately 11. He was asked by one of the local ice hockey coaches to try out for a team.
He didn’t like ice hockey after his first tryout session, but later went to a second tryout for the team and started to fall in love with the sport.
“I told my mom I didn’t want to do it after that first session,” said Spezia, whose mom, Kelly, played softball at Oakland University. “I just didn’t feel comfortable and the skating was different. But I went back a couple weeks later and made the team, and it was cool.”
Spezia quickly developed as an ice hockey player. He came to BG from Youngstown of the United States (Junior) Hockey League where he had 10 goals and 12 assists in 58 games during the 2013-14 season.
Spezia had a solid first season at BG, totaling six goals and two assists, and on-ice rating of plus-7 in 32 games. He also was a regular on the penalty-killing unit that ranked second nationally at 89.8 percent.
“The inline hockey developed my offensive production, my skill, my vision on the ice,” Spezia said. “I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t played inline hockey.”
Spezia has been busy conditioning and training in the weight room to prepare for his sophomore season. He recently started skating with the other collegians and the pros. Legwand and DeKeyser are from Detroit.
“It’s a great hockey education, skating with them and watching them off the ice,” Spezia said. “You just see how their routine goes on and off the ice, and the way they carry themselves on the ice, just how bad they want it and how hard they work, how they interact with people.
“You can take a lot away from those guys, not even the hockey part. They’ve made it to the highest level. I just soak it all in and ask a lot of questions.”
Spezia hopes to play professionally. He has a 3.64 grade-point average in business administration.
The 5-foot-10, 161-pounder still has a few of those sessions before he returns to BG for the start of school.
“You don’t want to be annoying, but they’re really good guys,” Spezia said. “You have to be a student of the game. They love to be out there. They love to help.
“You learn a lot from them. They’re give you a tip or might say you should try this next time. It’s really cool to be out there with those guys and hear what they say.”