After seeing his professional playing career cut short by injuries, Lititz 24-year-old Tyler Hostetter has joined the coaching ranks as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Revolution Junior A club.
If Tyler Hostetter had his druthers, he’d still be playing hockey.
The Lititz native signed an NHL entry level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009 and went on to play three pro seasons from 2011-14.
That is, until the last of his multiple concussions led him to early retirement.
“Obviously, I wanted to keep playing,” said Hostetter, who appeared in 101 games with the AHL’s Adirondack Phantoms, the ECHL’s Trenton Titans and the CHL’s Wichita Thunder. “I’d been doing it my whole life since I was 7 years old. Obviously, I’d still rather play hockey. I can’t. It’s the sport I love. I made a career out of it, but my career ended short. It’s definitely a lifestyle change, that’s for sure.”
Fortunately, though, the 2009 Warwick grad has been able to stay in the game. In fact, he now finds himself in the coaching ranks alongside Flyers’ legend Keith Primeau with the Eastern Hockey League’s Philadelphia Revolution Junior A club.
Primeau, who captained the orange and black from 2001-02 to 2005-06, is the Revolution’s head coach, while Hostetter, who was hired about four months ago, is an assistant.
“It’s been very good,” Hostetter said of the transition. “I had to retire early because of my injuries, so it actually filled that void of staying in hockey and I’m happier because I get to work and still make a living coaching hockey. It’s really great to learn from Keith. That’s pretty much why I took this job is to learn from Keith Primeau. So I’m actually learning a lot.”
Still just 24 years old and not far removed from his playing days, Hostetter credits Primeau for helping him make the adjustment.
“I’d say (what I’m learning) is how to handle myself,” he said. “I get caught up in that player/coach type ordeal sometimes because I’m so young. So I’ve learned more from him to get away from the player side of it when I’m coaching, so that really helps me. I’m learning a lot more hockey stuff from Keith. Obviously, not everyone knows everything, so it’s good to learn how different people want to run systems and how they teach players. To me, the more I gather, the better off I am.”
After playing just 19 games with the Thunder in the Central Hockey League in 2013-14, Hostetter got into plumbing with his godfather and took over as the head coach of the Central Penn Junior Panthers, whom he led to the playoffs.
“I wanted to see what a trade was like, I thought it was a good thing to learn,” Hostetter said, “but I really wanted to further my career in coaching and see where that leads me.”
While Hostetter was playing for Trenton in the ECHL, Titans’ goaltenders/assistant coach Chris Kanaly asked about his post-retirement plans. When the former Warwick star indicated that he’d like to coach, Kanaly told him to call after retiring.
That’s exactly what Hostetter did, and Kanaly, the Revolution’s general manager, offered him a job.
“He’s been trying to get me down here and I finally pulled the trigger and moved to Philly,” he said.
Besides the professional experience that Primeau and Kanaly bring to the table, the Revolution’s U19 coach Justin Grevious has a couple of years under his belt.
It all makes for a great working environment.
“In every job, there’s something to learn every time,” Hostetter said. “You can always learn. We have a lot of pro experience for coaches, which is really awesome because you get to learn from everyone. It’s definitely a reason why I took (the job) just because of the experience there. We all like to learn from each other and we all get along.”
For Hostetter, the biggest reward of his job is seeing the players get their opportunity to move on to whatever level they want to play.
“That’s what makes you really happy about coaching is watching these kids move up the ranks,” he remarked. “You don’t expect a thank-you, but a lot of the players will call you and say, ‘Hey coach, thanks a lot, I really appreciate your work. Thanks for pushing me and moving me on.’ So it’s nice. I always tell the players, ‘It wasn’t me. I just helped you and led you in the right direction, but you put all the work in. You should be proud of yourself.’”
Hostetter said that the EHL is a good league for recruiting Division-One and Division-Three players, and in fact, two of the Revolution’s players &tstr; Cayden, 16, and Chayse Primeau, 18 &tstr; have verbal commitments to Northeastern University and Canisius College, respectively.
“They’re both still very young, but Chayse and Cayden are both very good players and they’re going to be a key unit of our team this year,” Hostetter said. “By the end of the season, we hope to have at least six guys committed to Division-One. We’re a very young team for a Junior A team, but that’s where we want to be because we want to commit kids and move them on.”
Of course, Hostetter still recalls being in those players’ shoes, climbing the ladder and getting positive guidance from the likes of Andy Scott (currently a Reading Royals assistant), Doug Yingst and former Erie Otters’ head coach Robbie Ftorek in the Ontario Hockey League.
“(Ftorek) was a big influence on me and I still like to coach like he did,” Hostetter said. “I respect him a lot. He’s definitely someone who, if I ever have any questions or I’d want to coach at a higher level, I would put his name down.”
Having played four seasons in Erie, Hostetter returned there last season to watch a game and get a first-hand look at Connor McDavid, Dylan Strome and Travis Dermott. McDavid and Strome went No. 1 and 3 overall in the 2015 NHL Draft to the Edmonton Oilers and Arizona Coyotes, while Dermott went 34th overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“Three really good players,” he said. “It was really nice to watch them and see how they were doing.”
Down the road, Hostetter would jump at the chance to coach with the Otters.
“I’d really, really like to go back to Erie just because I had four great seasons there, I loved being in Erie, the fans were awesome, my billet families were great,” said Hostetter who also hopes to start an online course and get his college degree. “I think that’s my main goal (to coach in Erie). Obviously, my main goal would be to coach in the NHL. But I really, really would like to coach in Erie and see how that goes.”
That’s a future aspiration.
What he has immediately in his sights is training camp with the Revolution, which gets underway on Monday, Aug. 24. The club plays it home games in Warminster.
“I can’t wait. I’m excited,” Hostetter said.