From Heartbreak to Champion: Tim Kalinowski

By Isabella Apple


Tim Kalinowski was first introduced to the ice at the age of three while living in Colorado by his dad.


“He threw skates on me and just grabbed me by the arms and he did all the skating and took me gliding around the ice for my first experience on skates. I got more into actual hockey when I was around four or five.” said the forward.


The Kalinowski’s moved to Massachusetts where Mr. Kalinowski signed a young Tim up for a Learn to Skate program at 8 am on Sunday mornings. Tim’s dad had grown up a skier and knew that to become great at a winter sport there were a lot of early mornings and late nights in Tim’s future - he wanted to prepare his son early on for this.


Tim remembers those 8 am practices felt like 3 am to his tired brain. The Sunday morning struggle of running out of the warm embrace of his own bed and into the comfort of his mother’s every Sunday to try and just once get out of skating became routine. Although every time Tim got to practice and on the ice, the whining faded away and he just skated.


Tim described his hometown with words from his grandfather. His grandfather said the number of basketball hoops tells you how good the town is at basketball, but in Marblehead, Massachusetts there are hockey nets in every driveway. As a kid, he remembered idolizing the Marblehead High School players “as if they were NHLers” and it became his dream to win a championship for Marblehead like he had watched those before him.


Tim played both hockey and baseball all his life but skated and worked on his hockey always. By the time he started high school he made the varsity hockey team and he and the boys he had started Learn to Skate with began their personal quest to bring a championship back home.


After going 23-0-1 his senior year, setting the regular-season wins record in Massachusetts, they were upset 3-2 in the semi-finals. To this day Tim still considers this one of the worst days of his life.


“It was the worst heartbreak ever. I don’t know if I went to school for two weeks, I was shattered from [losing]. It was absolutely miserable,” recalled the sophomore. “I can’t go back and watch the game, I can’t talk about it, read about it, my parents know we cannot bring [the game] up in our household.”


Tim knew his path was a bit different than his friends as senior year drew to a close and he had applied to post-grad programs to play another year of hockey and baseball instead of the typical college application process. He was waitlisted at first at Phillips Exeter Academy - his dream post-grad program - but later got off the waitlist at the end of July and jumped right into school again that August.


Despite struggling at first to juggle the advanced academic caliber along with his vigorous hockey and baseball schedules, Tim found his footing and feels it was a necessary transitional year both academically and athletically.


“The thing about going to prep school is it’s great because you get to do another year of maturing before you’re in college. I don’t believe any 18-year-old is really ready to leave home and make decisions on their own.” Tim continued, “it meant so much to me to live at Exeter, but still have my parents only an hour away and able to watch me play. It was a great year developmentally for me.”


Towards the end of his prep-school year, Tim injured his back and once again his path was adjusted to roll with the punches of life. His goal to play college hockey remained constant, but he felt he needed another year of work to show coaches without injuries plaguing his game.


He applied to a few colleges but ultimately decided a year of juniors would do him well for an array of reasons. He played for the Valley Warriors in Massachusetts for the following season while living at home, but he was now two years behind his friends in college, and juniors ended up being less fun than he had initially imagined.


“It sounds great, all you do is play hockey, but it ended up being really lonely. You’re not as tight with your teammates because you’re not in school together and everyone is doing their own thing aside from playing together for a few hours throughout the week,” Tim said.


As his year playing in juniors came to a close and the college application process began again, Tim had a different outlook on what he wanted for his future. He decided he craved something more than playing at a small D-III school that reminded him of high school and wanted that big campus lifestyle with school spirit, great academics, but still very competitive hockey.


After Tim had fallen in love with Syracuse’s atmosphere, Newhouse’s journalism program and was scouted by Coach Wolinski, his heart was set on being an Orangeman. He applied last minute - as he claims he does everything - but once again found himself on the waitlist of the only school he wanted to attend.


He was accepted off the waitlist into the School of Arts and Sciences, not Newhouse as he had hoped, and for the Spring ‘19 semester. After constantly keeping in touch with Syracuse, Tim began to realize he would have to wait another semester to start school and accepted that fact. Knowing his heart was set in Central New York, he figured, what’s another semester behind.


During move-in week before the Fall ‘18 term began Tim got the call that he was accepted into Syracuse University for the upcoming semester. He immediately called his mom and as the Kalinowski’s had done in the past, they figured it out.


In a frenzy, he and his family spent the next few days frantically packing whatever they could and moved Tim into Haven Hall late Sunday night to begin classes the next morning. He started school that Monday, but he was only halfway where he wanted to be - Newhouse was the dream.


“I hadn’t been in school for a full year while playing in juniors and I have to basically get a 4.0 to get into Newhouse, so now I’m like ‘wow my backs really against the wall.’” He said, “so I’m working hard to get into Newhouse and we have hockey practice which is like recess for me with how much school work I’m doing.”


Tim and the rest of the Orange crushed the ESCHL tournament, bringing back a championship for Syracuse, but he still had Newhouse on his brain 24/7. The then-freshman had written ‘NEWHOUSE’ across his whiteboard to be reminded every day of what he was working towards academically.


“That full year I felt like I did not breathe until I got the letter that I got into Newhouse which was in July this summer. It felt like I had literally not taken a deep breath until that moment, it’s a tough way of living getting an A-minus on an exam and going ‘crap! I need an A’, and everyone hates that guy,” said Kalinowski.


With a championship under his belt and on his way to a Newhouse degree in Public Relations, Tim was hit with another blow.


He had torn the labrum in his hip, the cartilage that separates your femur and the hip socket, creating a horrible hip pain. He had brushed it off thinking it was a nagging hip flexor from his post-grad days, but after visiting a doctor he found out it required surgery. After a successful operation that summer, the one thing his doctors and physical therapists told him was he will not play hockey this season. They said the rehab is a long process and they weren’t going to get his hopes up for nothing.


Like Tim had done before, he put his head down and worked through it. He had a fast first month of rehab but was once again told playing this season was off the table. Although disappointed, he knew his diagnosis going into the season and he continued to work. In spite of all his doctor’s predictions, Tim was back on skates by Thanksgiving - just four months out of surgery.


“I was so cooped up sitting on the couch with an ice pack all of the fall semester, watching my friends play hockey. I had so much energy and I just went right out [onto the ice] and had an adrenaline rush - I didn’t feel anything. I just felt amazing,” he said of his first practice.


Now just over six months out for hip surgery, Tim is back on the ice starting for the Orange alongside his house - and line - mates alternate captain Matt Jacobs and captain Peter-Owen Hayward.


“It’s been huge for our team [to have Tim] for a couple different reasons no doubt about it. He’s really helped round out our line and make us dangerous every time we touch the ice and on the power play he’s been just what we needed to get going.” The captain continued, “The biggest thing he’s brought to the table though, is his presence in the locker room and the energy he brings. He’s always got some crazy story to tell or hill to die on and it really makes it fun to be [at the rink] every day,” Hayward finished.


Despite the ups and downs Tim has faced over the past few years he is exactly where he belongs now - on Jacobs wing across from Hayward helping the Orange gear up for another championship run.



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By e-mail: iengelha@syr.edu

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