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Tyson Nash: Handyman for the Crunch
He's at his best when he's hammering someone on the boards


© Post-Standard, The (Syracuse, NY)
March 6, 1997


A guitar is gathering dust in The Cave, a place otherwise known as Syracuse Crunch forward Tyson Nash's university-area apartment.


Nash thought it would be easy to learn to play the instrument. It wasn't, so he put it in storage.


Nash's hobby du jour is cooking. That seems to be going well enough, although his roommate, Syracuse defenseman Mark Wotton, handles the heavy stuff. Nash specializes in morning fare like cereal and French toast.

Nash doesn't look for easy ways out. It's just that he shows more persistence with rugged challenges. For instance, he's dynamite with a hammer in his hand. He bought a fixer-upper house in Edmonton two years ago and helped make it the pride of the block.


"I'm big on that kind of stuff," Nash said. "You see a goal, you want to accomplish something, and you do it."


That sums up how Nash - in his second year with the Crunch - has become the team's handyman. As the postseason approaches, he figures to play one or more of Syracuse's key roles. He understands the effort it takes to succeed in the playoffs - he won three junior hockey Memorial Cups with Kamloops of the Western Hockey League.


Need some work in the corners? The 6-foot, 186-pound Nash can throw some elbows for a Crunch squad that's on the small side. Want a soft touch around the net? Surprisingly, he has emerged as a valuable scorer off a second or third line.


"This year my game has moved up a couple of levels," Nash said. "I want to have a job next year. I want to have a job 10 years from now. I try just to improve every time out."


That's one of Nash's areas of expertise. Syracuse coach Jack McIlhargey said Nash returned to the Crunch this season as its most improved player.


As an AHL rookie, he posted just four goals and seven assists in 50 games. His stock dropped so low that he was shipped out for a brief stay in the East Coast Hockey League.


This season, he has 14 goals and 14 assists in 60 games. His grinding work has earned him time on the Crunch power play.


"He has to work hard and play physical if he wants to contribute," McIlhargey said. "If he starts to get away from that part of the game, the rest of his game struggles. I want him to be strong defensively, do a good job forechecking, create opportunities for other guys."


Nash, who turns 22 Tuesday, has not a spare inch of skin, but he reworked his training regimen for the demands of this season. He used to go for a sculpted beach-build look on top. Last off-season, he worked on his legs every day, and his improved skating is one reason he's been in position to score more.


A surprisingly strong preseason also carried over. Nash was a late survivor in Vancouver's training camp while more heralded prospects were shuttled to Syracuse. A wide-eyed Nash - who is as quick with a smile as he is with a check - was intoxicated by the talent and amenities of the NHL lifestyle.


"I just tried to ride the wave," Nash said. "Confidence, that's the biggest thing for me. I think I was doubting myself last year. I just wanted to show myself mainly that I could play."


Nash hones his shooting skills in practice, but he doesn't forget what earns him the bulk of his ice time. His preferred method of target practice involves lining up an opponent for a high-impact introduction.


"I love when the fans go crazy after a big hit," Nash said. "My role is always going to be gritty, getting into the corners, hitting guys. When you get away from that, a guy like me looks ordinary."


When he's not trying to distinguish himself on the ice, Nash still wants to keep his mind as tuned as his muscles. He's already contemplating a new interest.


"I'm thinking of going out and buying a computer," Nash said. "You can spend hours on there. It keeps your mind busy. You can't just go home and sleep. You can't let your brain go soft."


And if the computer suffers the same fate as the guitar?


"Well, then it'd be a very big loss," Nash said.