Relationship goals: Brotherhood extends beyond CMU for club hockey

A CMU club hockey player skates with a fan in the ugly sweater open skate event held at Isabella County Events Arena on Dec. 5. CMU lost to Grand Valley 7-1. Rachel Harrison | Staff Photographer

When senior Central Michigan club hockey defenseman Mike Chodzko waits in line at Quiznos, people no longer ask him “Oh, we have a hockey team?” Now they’re saying, “Hey, good luck tonight.”

Chodzko has been with the program since it started in 2012 by Head of Hockey Operations Travis Gosselin. It started with two teams, Division II and III teams for students to play hockey beyond their high school careers. This year, the two teams decided to combine into one.

Head Coach Tyler Cataline saw growth in the two years he has been with the team.

“We’ve been building our program and getting better. We’ve been getting more players every year,” Cataline said. “Our program is really good because of the hard work that is put into it by our players, who are here every day, and our managers.”

With more than 30 regular season games from September through January, the team has a lot of time to bond. Many of the players are also roommates and live on the same block near Douglas and Washington streets.

“This team is definitely one of the closest teams I’ve ever played on as far as guys getting together,” Chodzko said. “We hang out off the ice and see each other all the time. Having this group as family makes it a lot more fun.”

Director of Broadcasting for CMU Hockey, Shawn Bednard, said he would describe the hockey players as a “special breed of people” and the hockey community as a “close-knit group.”

“At the end of the day, they're all just players out there for the love of the game,” Bednard said. “This isn’t the big time, this isn’t varsity or Division I, they are just playing this because they love hockey. They also realize the man they’re lining up against also loves the game of hockey.”

One of the biggest motivators for the team is the fan support, which Chodzko said is awesome to see. The team encourages students and parents to come out and support the players whenever they can.

“It means a lot because it shows that people enjoy what we do,” said sophomore Travis Gilmer. “We just want to play our hearts out and show that we’re a solid and national contending team. Having fans that come out and support us means a lot.”

The brotherhood extends beyond the teammates and Chippewa fans, however.

Last Saturday, the Central Michigan club ice hockey team held a fundraiser event “Ugly Sweaters for Andrew Lay” and rose about $1,200 for fellow hockey brother Andrew Lay, the captain of the University of Michigan-Flint club hockey team.

After falling to Grand Valley 7-1 on Saturday, fans were able to participate in an open skate with the team at the Isabella County Events Arena.

Senior captain Andrew Lay suffered a traumatic neck injury Nov. 20 when he was sent head-first into the wooden boards of the ice hockey rink, breaking two vertebrae and requiring surgery. The Lay family has been struggling with the cost of medical bills, which is why CMU wanted to support them.

“It’s definitely not an inexpensive thing to go through,” Chodzko said. “Any way we can help out financially or send our support would help a ton. We’re all putting ourselves in his shoes and seeing what he’s going through and trying to give him.”

Chodzko's roommate knew Lay personally growing up, although most members on CMU's team had only heard of his name before the injury.

There were more than 100 people at the ugly sweater event. Other schools from around the country have donated to his GoFundMe page, including Adrian College, University of Louisville, Oakland University and Hope College.

“I can’t express how ecstatic I was with the turnout,” said Bednard, a co-creator of the event. “It was unbelievable to see how many people not only heard about the event, but actually came out. All I can describe it: Humbling. Seeing the selflessness of the Mount Pleasant community to help somebody they’ve never met was an unbelievably incredible feeling.”

The Chippewas are 10-9-2-1 and will face the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals (7-14-0-2) at 9 p.m. Friday at the Isabella Community Events Arena.

Donations can be made on Andrew Lay’s GoFundMe page at