Edinburgh Capitals’ new recruit, Mike Cazzola, is looking to make an impact in the city both on and off the ice when he arrives later this month ahead of the new Elite League season.
Caps beat off stiff opposition to sign Cazzola on a two-year deal as the player prepares to combine professional ice hockey with studying for his MSc in Physiotherapy at Queen Margaret University.
Edinburgh are still putting the final touches to their squad and the 26-year-old Canadian centre is expected to be one of 14 foreign stars that help make up new head coach Dmitri Khristich’s team. However, Cazzola has more reasons than most to forge strong friendships in the Capital.
“I think my situation is unique,” explained Cazzola. “I’m also here to do the physiotherapy programme at Queen Margaret University. I’ll be here for two years and I’ll be doing my placements in the city in the summertime. It’s not like I’ll be here for the season and then back home again. I really want to make sure I reach out to the fans and make an impact with the community and the school because when the season’s done and everyone goes home, it’ll be just me, and it would be nice if I had a night off to maybe stop by and see some people.”
Last season, Cazzola led his team, Fort Wayne Komets of the East Coast Hockey League, in scoring with 84 points in all competition, attracting a lot of attention. However, the 5ft 7in livewire chose the Murrayfield club, admitting he was even close to joining the team this time last year.
Cazzola said: “(Capitals co-owner) Scott Neil and I were talking before my first season with Fort Wayne, and the possibility of studying at Queen Margaret but I missed the cut-off date by a couple of weeks and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. I reapplied this year, and got in. Hockey is something I want to keep doing and the move just made sense for both of us. Yes, there was a lot of interest (from other clubs), and I’m very appreciative of that, but there’s life after hockey and you’ve got to try and do something after your playing career. Physiotherapy is very competitive. I was excited when I got into Queen Margaret – it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
Cazzola does not seem fazed by the prospect of playing and studying 3500 miles away from his Guelph home in south-east Canada, and his Italian heritage shines through when he speaks of his love of football, something he is keen to watch when he comes to Edinburgh.
Cazzola enthused: “I’m excited to get over and I definitely want to watch some football – that would be a cool experience. I’m a big Italy fan, just sticking true to my roots. I’m sure Scottish people aren’t the biggest fans of Italian football, what with all the diving that goes on, but Juventus, the way they play, their defence is incredible and I find them a lot of fun to watch.
“I love the international tournaments too like the World Cup and European Championships. You guys (Scotland) almost upset England in that qualifier. What a crazy ending to a game!”
Cazzola certainly seems switched on about the Elite League and what to expect when he gets to Edinburgh, where he will face-off against old Fort Wayne team-mate Mike Embach, now of the Braehead Clan, in the second semi-final of the inaugural Elite League Scottish Cup, also featuring Fife Flyers and Dundee Stars, which will be held at Murrayfield on September 9-10.
Cazzola said: “I was playing in a charity event recently and (new Capitals forward) Dylan Anderson was there so we were able to chat about everything. We also ran into Darcy Murphy, who will be playing with Belfast. For all three of us its our first time going overseas to play hockey, and chatting about it brought home how close the start of the season is.
“We look to be putting together a strong team. I already know Dylan, and (Capitals defenceman) Mike D’Orazio. I haven’t played much against (Caps new signing) Taylor Stefishen but he’s a guy who’s put up good numbers everywhere he’s been and looks fun to play with. I’ve done my research on the Russian players we’ve signed and they’ve all played in the top leagues over there. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone has to bring.
“I try to keep up with everything going on around the league as much as possible. There’s been a lot of big signings like Josh Shalla (Nottingham Panthers), and a guy I played with last year in Fort Wayne, Mike Embach, has signed for Braehead. The two of us have already chatted about how we’re starting the season with the Scottish Cup that we’ll be hosting in Edinburgh. It’s a good thing the league have brought in. Hopefully, it will help generate some new fans for the Capitals.”