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Former Grizzlies’ den members: Tyler Bozak

 

Of the several former Victoria Grizzlies to make the National Hockey League, Tyler Bozak is one of the greatest. A prolific point producer, Bozak often led Victoria in scoring during his three seasons.

Bozak is part of two groups with the franchise. He started as a member of the Salsa but finished with the Grizzlies. Bozak is also one of several players to have his jersey number retired by the team.

In a special ceremony on Jan. 10, 2020, the Grizzlies retired Bozak’s number 11 jersey. He couldn’t attend in person but sent several videos for the event.

Aside from these exclusive clubs, Bozak is part of another club. As a member of the Blues, Bozak won the Stanley Cup in 2019 as St. Louis defeated the Boston Bruins in seven games.

While his future with the Blues is unknown as an unrestricted free agent this summer, I want to trace his journey to St. Louis. From midget hockey in Regina to the NHL, all his stops and awards are highlighted. 

His junior years

Bozak‘s first major stop was in Regina. He played the 2003-04 season for the Regina Pat Canadians U18 AAA team. The Canadians are members of the Saskatchewan Male AAA Hockey League and in 42 games, Bozak scored 17 goals and 19 assists.

For 2004-05, Bozak headed west and joined the Salsa. As a team, Victoria was undergoing several changes. The club had just moved into their permanent home at Bear Mountain Arena, which is now known as The Q Centre.

The team was also on the verge of rebranding itself as the Grizzlies. It’s something I discussed in a previous article about the rebrand.

During that 2004-05 season, Bozak scored 15 goals and 16 assists in 55 games. The following season, Bozak doubled his point totals.

In 56 games during the 2005-06 season, Bozak scored 31 goals and 38 assists. During his final season with Victoria, Bozak led the league in scoring and also served as captain of the rebranded Grizzlies squad.

Bozak put up an eye-popping 45 goals and 83 assists in 59 games. For earning 128 points and leading the BCHL in points, Bozak was awarded the Brett Hull Trophy. He is one of several Grizzlies to receive the award.

College life and the minor leagues

After finishing the 2006-07 season, Bozak went to the University of Denver in the NCAA. There, he played for the Pioneers men’s ice hockey team. Bozak wasn’t the first BCHL alum to play for the Pioneers as Matt Pettinger also spent parts of two seasons at Denver from 1998-2000.

For the 2007-08 season with Pioneers, Bozak scored 18 goals and 16 assists in 41 games as a freshman. During the 2008-09 season, he scored eight goals and 15 assists in 19 games. Bozak missed most of the season because of a torn meniscus in his left knee.

While rehabilitating his injured knee, Bozak joined another exclusive club and signed a two-way contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs as an undrafted college free agent. He ended up spending the 2009-10 season between the American Hockey League and NHL.

In 32 games with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies, Bozak scored four goals and 16 assists. In 37 games with the Maple Leafs, he also notched eight goals and 19 assists.

Eight seasons in Toronto

After cracking the Maple Leafs’ roster full-time, Bozak spent eight seasons with Toronto. From 2010-18 Bozak played a total of 557 games for the Maple Leafs, notching 128 goals and 210 assists.

Bozak was a frequent offensive contributor for Toronto. He was often on the top line with players like Phil Kessel and James Van Riemsdyk. Unfortunately, Toronto didn’t experience much post-season success. For that success, Bozak had to play for another team.

Because of salary cap constraints, Bozak left Toronto as a free agent and signed a three-year deal with the St. Louis Blues.

Success in St. Louis

During the 2018-19 season, Bozak scored 13 goals and 25 assists in 72 games and made it to the Stanley Cup Final. It was the first time the Blues made the final since 1970 and was also a rematch against their opponents from that year, the Boston Bruins.

Through 26 playoff games, Bozak scored five goals and eight assists. With the Blues victory, Bozak got his name added to the Cup.

During the 2019-20 season, Bozak scored 13 goals and 16 assists in 67 games. The Blues joined the Edmonton bubble for the playoffs and faced the Vancouver Canucks in the first round, losing in six games. In eight playoff contests, Bozak notched a pair of assists.

During the shortened 2020-21 season, Bozak scored five goals and 12 assists in 31 games. In the first round of the playoffs, the Blues were swept in four games by the Colorado Avalanche. 

Legacy

Bozak was the first-ever captain of the Victoria Grizzlies. He led the league in scoring before going to the NCAA. He has also carved out an impressive NHL career despite being undrafted. Bozak is also one of a handful of former Salsa/Grizzlies to make it to the NHL.

He was a critical contributor to the Toronto Maple Leafs and a big part of the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup championship win. He is among the most successful players to ever advance from Victoria’s BCHL team.