Ding … One after another, a flood of “Congratulations!” “Way to go!” and “You deserve it!!” texts overwhelmed T.J. Tynan’s phone as news broke among friends and family that the former Chicago Wolves forward had been called up by the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 6.
Finally — after five seasons and more than 400 games in the minor leagues — the 27-year-old Orland Park native was about to get his first true crack at the big time.
“He hasn’t got a lot of opportunity to go up to the NHL, which is a surprise to me,” said former Wolves linemate and good friend Curtis McKenzie. “It was nice to see him finally get rewarded. I was pumped for him.”
As were Brandon Pirri, Vinnie Hinostroza, Ryan Hartman and a host of others.
“There were a lot of guys,” Tynan said Friday before the Avs beat the Blackhawks 5-2 at the United Center. “It was pretty cool to see.”
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound Tynan, who played collegiately at Notre Dame and racked up 131 points the last two seasons with the Wolves, is getting this opportunity because injuries have absolutely ravaged the Avs.
Star forwards Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog have been out since late October and center Colin Wilson since Nov. 7. Then, off-season addition Andre Burakovsky got hurt against Edmonton on Wednesday.
Tynan, who signed a one-year deal in the off-season, earned one of the first call-ups from the Avs’ AHL team in Fort Collins, Colorado because of how he stood out in training camp. Tynan’s only averaging nine minutes of ice time in a fourth-line role, but has more than impressed coach Jared Bednar with his work ethic and tenacity.
“He’s been great,” Bednar said. “A worker. Everything you’ve seen with him in the past with the Wolves. Hard-skating guy, great details to his game. … He checks hard, he plays the game hard, he plays it the right way and for a smaller guy he’s using his speed to his advantage. He’s been real good for us.”
Tynan took to the ice at age 4 and was the first one in his family to stick with it. He also loved soccer and baseball, but by about eighth grade knew he wanted to play hockey in college.
He spent four years at Notre Dame, where he became close friends with former Blackhawks forward Hinostroza.
“I fell in love with it right away,” Tynan said. “My parents loved Notre Dame football. It was a great fit for me and my four years there were incredible.
Columbus drafted Tynan in the third round in 2011, and he spent the majority of his time with the Blue Jackets’ AHL team, winning a Calder Cup in 2016 with Bednar as his coach.
Tynan then scored 27 goals and dished out 104 assists in two seasons with the Wolves, with last year’s campaign ending in a run to the Calder Cup Final.
“He was a big-time leader for us,” McKenzie said. “Every night he went out there and worked as hard as he could. He’s a guy that’s been around the league for a while, so he knew different things that he could see and just pass onto the younger guys. Whether it was a shot in the arm or getting the team going, he knew how to do it.”
After playing 10 games for the Avs’ AHL team this season, Tynan finally got the call he’s been waiting for his entire life and was reunited with Bednar on Nov. 6.
“I’ve been here a couple weeks now and it’s been awesome,” said Tynan, who has played in 11 games and recorded his first NHL point with an assist during the Avs’ 7-3 victory over the Hawks in Denver on Saturday. “We’ve been up and down with wins and losses, but it’s been great. It’s definitely been an incredible experience.”
One game Tynan will likely never forget was his season debut in Colorado on Nov. 7 as the Avs rattled off 6 second-period goals in just eight minutes en route to a rousing 9-4 victory over Nashville.
“It was nuts,” Tynan said. “It was like, ‘Is this ever going to end?’ It felt like everyone was scoring every shift. I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of something like that.”
Tynan obviously hopes to be part of the Avalanche as long as possible, as do his friends, family and former teammates.
It helps to have Bednar in his corner, too. The 47-year-old coach, who played his entire nine-year career in the minor leagues, admits to having a soft spot for anyone who pays his dues and then makes the most of his opportunity when it arises.
“I sure do,” said Bednar, whose Avs have won eight of their last 11 games. “Plus, I had T.J. before. I had him in Springfield and had him in Cleveland when we won. So to see guys that you know — that play the right way and get rewarded for doing so — it is pretty rewarding as a coach.”