Tommy Mele joined Lightning about eight weeks into the season, as Head Coach Pete Russell looked to strengthen his forward lines. The New Yorker has significant experience in the tough North American hockey leagues, and joined Lightning from the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL – having played over 300 games in that league.
He has a solid record of progress, having worked his way through the ranks from junior hockey in New York followed by four seasons in the US collegiate hockey system whilst majoring in Management at university. Post-study, he has played in not just the ECHL but also the AHL and CHL. In the 2011-12 season he helped Fort Wayne Komets to the CHL title. The following season he was on the Alaska Aces team that scooped the Brabham Cup, and there was another trophy a year later when Aces won the ECHL’s Kelly Cup.
I asked him why he had taken the decision to move to Europe, and settled on MK in particular?
He said, ‘I played the previous seven seasons in the United States. It was a good opportunity to come and see the world and continue my career over here. I was dealing with some personal circumstances and it was the right decision to make. We were trying to figure out which European club to chose. Peter Russell and Carl Hudson, who I already knew from my junior hockey days, had a chat and I liked what they were offering. It seemed to be the best fit on and off the ice and it was the right time to come to Europe.
Have you had much chance to see the world yet?
‘No,’ he said. ‘I’ve not had much chance to travel yet. I went to London for the first time last week, and that was great. Now I’m waiting for a break in the schedule for a couple of days off, and I’m hoping to go to Paris and meet up with a buddy who is playing over there. His team just had their international break last week so he came to visit me here in the UK.
Mele arrived after the season has started, and it’s always tricky to fit in with a new team partway through a season. How hard was it fitting with team?
‘It’s been great,’ he replied. ‘We have an excellent group of players and a really tight dressing room. Camaraderie between us all is great and the culture that we are developing is fab. We are winning as a team and that is established now and should continue if we keep doing all the right things.’
What does he feel that he brings to the team?
‘I play a good game, and I’ve got a good skill set. I bring a positive attitude and bags of energy. I feel that I play a good all round game.’
At the time of writing, Mele had played seven games for Lightning, scoring two goals, and five assists. With previous teams he has won trophies and championships, is that an experience that he feels he can draw on this season? ‘Oh yes,’ he agreed. ‘I want to help push the team to be the best they can. It’s a special feeling to win a championship. It’s something that I take pride in – I know how to win, I’ve already done it twice at pro level, as well as twice at junior level. When you go through it personally you know what it takes to get the job done at the end of the day. I try to use that in my game, lead by example and teach others the work ethic and over a six month period the results will hopefully be good at the end.’