It's not often that a guy with a brand new hockey company in Pittsburgh interviews a surging pro hockey player from Long Island, while he's playing in Kansas City, MO. But that's what happened when I got this awesome opportunity to hop on a call with John Schiavo. What's even luckier, is catching him with a few spare minutes. In the past year, John's won a gold medal for Team USA at the IIHF World Inline games, played for the Fayetteville Marksmen in the Southern Professional Hockey League and just finished his season with the Kansas City Mavericks of the East Coast Hockey League. Each step getting closer to the National Hockey League.
Who introduced you to Hockey?
My dad, all the way. He played hockey as a rec league lifer. Purely for the love of the game. At 3 years old, he started me on roller blades. I picked up ice skating around 4 and got into rec. Leagues around 6 or 7.
Do you remember the day you got your first set of gear? Where’d it come from?
Um, around 8 or 9. There was an older roller hockey player from Long Island, around where I grew up and I would get his hand-me-downs. I remember it being so cool to inherit gear from a player who I was looking up to.
What’s your first hockey-related memory?
I remember being a really little kid playing street hockey out front of the house with my dad and my grandpa. Around 7 or 8 years old it was being on the pond in Long Island, about 15 min from my house with my buddies and my dad.
Who was the biggest influence on you becoming a hockey player?
My dad definitely got me into the game. We’d be watching pro roller hockey players and pro ice hockey on tv and it ignited in me the passion to become a player forever. No matter professional or fun. I was hooked from then on.
What was the biggest challenge for you getting started in Hockey?
Transitioning from roller to ice was the hardest for me. Learning the differences between the two styles of the same game and the differences in skating. Then focusing my game more on ice hockey rather than street hockey, which was my first love.
When was the first time you realized that you loved to play?
As far back as I can remember. I’ve seen pictures of myself as a super youngster holding a hockey stick or wearing a hockey sweater. Everything about the game hooked me.
How many hours a week do you dedicate to hockey?
“We played a game last night at 735p - we were on the bus by 1130p heading to a new city - we arrived at 2a - then it’s up for a 10a practice.”
It depends on the time of year. In the summer, 90% of being awake revolves around hockey. During the ECHL season, I’m on the ice 90 minutes, plus 30 minutes of dryland stickhandling, and then a workout. It’s pretty much non-stop. It gets tricky during the season because you need to keep enough in the tank for games. It can be hard to find an escape from hockey but it’s crucial.
How do you train to get better in your own time?
A million percent. All day every day. From watching highlights to watching my favorite players to absorb all that I can, to stickhandling, to talking about hockey. It’s everything to me. Everybody has a different philosophy about their game. Some guys are so in love with the game that they can’t help but be obsessed. Some guys check out when they leave the rink, and that works for them. Some guys are playing where they’re playing for their career, so it’s almost like a 9-5 mentality. At the end of the day, the game is getting better and if you’re not out working the other guys, you’ll get left behind.
At what point did you realize that you could play hockey at a highly competitive level?
I was about 15 and playing in my first pro roller hockey tourney. I watched what the older guys were doing and made it a point to be a sponge. I really wanted to learn and I really wanted to win. I always put myself around the best players to absorb as much as I could. I saw highlights of great hockey plays and I worked at that stuff. I was motivated by highlights because I knew I could be on them.
Tell me something about The Code.
It’s all about on ice respect. A lot of people think of hockey as violent or gruesome. People who don’t know about the code, don’t understand why that’s a part of the game. The heated exchanges people see on the ice come from passion. Nobody wants to hurt each other or fight each other but inside the boards, sometimes that happens. A lot of stuff happens off the puck that people don’t see or the refs don’t call. Things have to be done about that. It’s less about trying to be violent and more about acting as our own police. It’s about protecting your team.
What do old/former/current pro players wish they could tell non-pros in pick-up play?
Hmmm. I’d say, PURELY HAVE FUN. That’s one thing that pros love about hockey. Pick-up hockey is supposed to be fun. During the summer, I make sure I get out and skate with people who are there to have fun. No matter the level. Be yourself and enjoy it.
What do you do for fun outside of hockey?
Golfing is definitely a summer favorite of mine. I love going to live sporting events and live music to have some fun. I don’t take much time off to do that stuff though. Once my ice hockey season ends, I start training for roller hockey. Last year I took 2.5 weeks off to recover. I think I went a little stir crazy.
What’s your favorite story within your hockey life?
Wow, so many great memories. Being around friends has been something that will always be near and dear to me. Traveling to different states and different countries with a group of my best friends. Making those memories with my teammates and that feeling of camaraderie.
One that stands out in particular though, is getting the opportunity to play for and represent the United States of America and win the IIHF World Inline Hockey gold medal. It was the biggest honor of life. More so than playing in NHL camps and ECHL. It’s by far the coolest thing I’ve been a part of and the achievement I’m most proud of.
Why do you play hockey?
Nothing else to it but the fact that I LOVE THE GAME SO MUCH. I truly could not see myself doing anything else.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
Something that I can’t forget to mention is how great my mom and dad have been in supporting me throughout my entire hockey journey. My mom has been so great putting up with my stuff all over the house. She’s cooked countless delicious meals for me, always making sure I’m fueled up. She’s planned and organized so many of my trips to make sure I’m always heading in the right direction and she really makes the most of my limited home-life. And, of course, my dad for always being my biggest supporter. The sacrifice he’s made putting in the countless hours over the years, taking me to the rink and trekking all over the country for games and tournaments is something for which, I’ll be forever grateful. I couldn’t have gotten to where I’m at today, without my amazing parents.
I’d also like to give a reminder to kids out there that love the game. Get out there and play. However it is that you can play the game, get out there and have fun. As a kid who loved the game, I am proof that getting out there and working hard allows you the opportunity to live your passion and realize your dreams.