This Flint Firebird is playing world-class hockey

FLINT, MI – Ty Dellandrea is, quite simply, one of the best.

The 17-year-old from Port Perry, Ontario, has cut his teeth for the past two years as a Flint Firebird—and continues to rise to prominence. He was named assistant captain for the Canada National Men’s Under 18 Team at the world championships this month in Russia. (So far Team Canada has won all three of its tournament games, thanks in part to one goal and two assists from Firebirds' No. 53.)

He also played in the invite-only game for top National Hockey League (NHL) draft prospects in January in Guelph, Ontario—and set a new record for the fastest two goals by a single player with scores coming 20 seconds apart.

All that to say, all eyes are on Dellandrea heading into the NHL draft in June. For Dellandrea,  hockey is all-consuming and entirely rewarding.

Growing up in Port Perry, about 50 miles northeast of Toronto, Dellandrea’s father would make an ice rink in the backyard for them to skate. Though hockey was, literally, in his backyard, Dellandrea was considered a bit of a late bloomer. While most kids were on the ice by 5 or 6 years old, he didn’t start playing competitively until 8 years old.

When he started, he played for the local team in Port Perry and eventually moved to a bigger center, playing for the Central Ontario Wolves from sixth to 10th grade. Two years ago, he found himself away from home, living in Grand Blanc with his billet family and playing for the Flint Firebirds.

The high school senior’s days seemed to blend together during the hockey season. Wake up, go to school, leave school, go to practice, go home, eat dinner, do homework, rinse, repeat. Dellandrea takes it all in stride.

“School has always come pretty easy to me. I always like to work hard. I’ve had A’s my whole life.”

Though academics may come to Dellandrea with ease, school has changed since coming to play for Flint. His transition has been fluid, but it isn’t easy being away from home even for this young man with an outgoing personality and subtle confidence.

In addition to his frantic schedule, Dellandrea works hard to keep his family back home and his billet family, the hockey version of a host family, updated and in the loop.

“It’s tough for sure, because I’m a big family guy and I love my family. So to keep them in the loop and make them feel right here .... In this whole situation, you have to keep them updated lots and call them lots,” he says.

“My billet family is a huge thing for me. It would be the worst thing ever if you had a terrible billet family. They’ve really helped the team and the community and myself a ton. They’ve been the best billets, I think, in the league. I’ve been truly lucky to have them.”

Dellandrea is not only a great student and family guy, but a sought-after player. Flint Firebirds Head Coach Ryan Oulahen has full confidence in him.

“[Ty] is able to elevate himself in big moments and big games. He’s someone you want out there when the game is on the line …. He’s really the consummate professional as a young guy. He’s only 17, but he’s a pro.”

As a participant in the 2018 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, Dellandrea is considered one of the top 40 players in the Canadian Hockey League, which is the most successful road to the NHL. The CHL accounts for 70 percent of NHL players and was home to nine of the 10 first round picks last year.

“It felt amazing to be recognized as a top 40 prospect draft. It’s a real honor. You’re nervous and excited at the same time. You don’t know what to think,” Dellandrea says. “The whole week was amazing. They treated you like a pro.”

The upcoming NHL Draft is usually on Dellandrea’s mind. The 6-foot, 1-inch center admits he’s laid awake some nights trying to take it all in. Even with all the notoriety, Dellandrea does his best to remain grounded. He relies on his faith and family—both billet and back home—to keep life in perspective.

“There’s way more to life than just hockey. Even though it’s an international thing and a lot of people know about it, nothing changes. I go about my life and my friends,” Dellandrea says. “I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else in this life. I think I’m really living the dream and I think everybody else should try to live their dream. To say from the bottom of my heart, this is exactly what I wanted to do. It’s pretty surreal.”
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