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Komets Shawn Szydlowski, Bobby Shea hoping for a great hockey adventure

Shawn Szydlowski, front, and Bobby Shea grew up in Michigan dreaming of playing together. (By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel)
Szydlowski and Shea with both drafted by Erie of the Ontario Hockey League at age 16. (Courtesy photo)
Shawn Szydlowski is enraptured by his niece Ella who was born this summer. (Courtesy photo)

The first time Bobby Shea and Shawn Szydlowski remember becoming friends, they were 12 years old, though they had become aware of each other as hockey players before that.

“Shawn was the guy who could take a slap shot and had a beard when we were like 10, and it was like, `You gotta watch this guy shoot!’ ” Shea said.

Szydlowski just remembers that even at that early age, Shea was always the guy everyone else looked up to, the team captain and the guy who was already doing all the right things.

“Then I obviously remember the first time seeing him fight,” Szydlowski said. “It was even more impressive, because back then we all had cages on and he had to rip somebody’s cage off, and he still beat the heck out of him. I don’t think his own helmet ever came off, but the other guy left the rink with a black and blue face.”

But, c’mon, every Komets fan really wants to know, have the two best friends ever fought? Have they ever lost their cools and really gone after it? After all, Shea is one of the toughest fighters in minor league hockey, and Szydlowski goes toe-to-toe with just about anyone if he gets mad enough, which happens five or six times a season.

“We’ve had a couple of bickering arguments, but nothing serious,” Shea said.

Szydlowski said, “We like to bicker like an old married couple, but it doesn’t last longer than a couple of minutes.”

That’s probably a good thing, because no linesman would want to get in the middle of that battle.

They’ve had lots of hockey adventures together. Szydlowski, 27, was born in St. Claire Shores, Mich., and Shea, 27, in Harrison Township, Mich., less than 20 minutes apart, so it was pretty obvious they’d end up on all the same teams growing up. They were teammates on the Belle Tire Under-16 club in 2006-07 before Shea went to play in Green Bay and Szydlowski in Erie. Though they were both drafted by Erie in 2006 when they were 16, Shea ended up at Bowling Green, Szydlowski played juniors in Erie and then signed with the Buffalo Sabres.

They took different hockey routes, but every summer they’d come home to play and train together.

“We know how to push each other and make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to,” Szydlowski said.

But this summer was a little different. Last season was supposed to be their big reunion year as Szydlowski didn’t push but helped convince Shea to sign with the Komets. Unfortunately, they didn’t get to play at the same time all that much. First, Shea had his appendix taken out the second week of the season, and then he got called up to the American Hockey League in December and got hurt in January. He was never healthy the rest of the season. Though he tried desperately to rehabilitate a nagging groin injury, he was limited to 23 games. No one was more frustrated than he was.

“With a groin you can go out and try again, and three games later get hurt again,” Shea said. “You feel healthy, but it’s just different. It wasn’t like a broken bone because you can move a certain way and tweak it. They said six weeks, and that’s when I came back but it wasn’t ready.”

So he spent the summer continuing his rehab, gradually building back up to when he was completely healthy and then continuing the therapy to make sure. He’s already smiled more during training camp than he did all of last season with the Komets. He’s skating freely, obviously having fun and looks like the player the Komets expected him to be last year.

Szydlowski also took it a little easier over the summer with his off-ice training. He found out at the end of last season that he had a herniated disk in his back, and that affected everything for his training. He spent more time on therapy and cardio than on lifting weights and skating this summer, and if anything his body is fresher heading into this season.

He also fell in love. His brother Miguel became a father over the summer, and Ella and her beautiful dark eyes became Uncle Shawn’s puppet master. He didn’t go to an AHL training camp this fall to baby his back and also to play with the baby. When everyone else went back to school and work in September, he stepped up to babysit even more. There were lots of naps involved.

“I stayed off the ice more than I have other summers, but I needed it,” Szydlowski said. “I only lifted three days a week, and two days a week we’d go to the track and do sprints or medicine ball throws.”

But now both players are healthy and looking forward to playing together and seeing what the Komets can do. It’s not quite a last hurrah together for the old friends, but they still plan on having a lot of fun.

“I never say the last of anything, but if you are going to say you are happy to play in the ECHL, then you are lying,” Shea said. “When we’re here, it’s all about Fort Wayne and you owe it to the team and the guys to do your best. This is where it’s at. It’s not a last chance thing, but obviously, you want to have a good year and win. We both want to win, and that’s what makes it fun.”

Though it’s probably not a last chance thing, it’s definitely a bonus to play together, Szydlowski said.

“I think we recognize that the game takes care of us, and we both want to have a good chance to win,” he said. “We both want to go for a championship, and we’re blessed and it’s a bonus that we get a chance to go for that together.”

They aren’t looking at this as their last chance, but perhaps the start of their greatest adventure.

For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.

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