Christian Gorscak of Jeannette, Westmoreland County, was recently named Most Valuable Player and Forward of the Year by North American Hockey League. The 19-year-old member of the Johnstown Tomahawks from 2017 to 2020 has committed to Niagara University in New York where he will major in elementary education.
Why did you choose to play hockey?
My oldest brother, Channing, and my cousin, Avery, played hockey on our back deck when it froze. Then, my brother, Conner, played, so I followed suit. My parents are big hockey fans and they got us into (organized) hockey. I was 2 years old when I started skating, but I waited until I was 4 to play team hockey.
For what teams did you play?
I was with the Allegheny Badgers until I was 7 or 8, then the Junior Pens until I was 11. In my next year, with the Pittsburgh Selects, I got to go to the Quebec International Tournament. After that, I played for the Esmark Stars for four years. I loved the coaching staff. All they wanted was for me to succeed.
How did you get selected for the Tomahawks' team?
Coach Mike (Letizia) had been following me for a few years. After my third season with Esmark, I was invited to the Tomahawk’s main camp. The coach wanted me to play one more season with Esmark, then he offered me a “tender” agreement, so the team had my rights before the NAHL draft. The year before I came to the team, the Hawks had a great season, so I was nervous. But, I just went to camp and played how I knew to play.
What did you get from that first season?
We struggled a bit, but as the year went on, I got more confidence and developed my skills. I played 49 of 60 games, which was more than I thought I would. Every day, though, I realized that I was playing for a spot on the team. I had to be a good teammate and learn from the guys who were on the ice. I had three roommates: Sammy Solensky, Joe Kile and Jack Leavy. They were older and had already played a year of junior hockey. We were very close friends and they pushed me to be the best player I could be. I learned to be positive, even through the tough times.
And season two?
My expectations for season two were more personal. I knew I would have a bigger role to play, but I didn’t really know what to expect. Not many guys were returning, but Coach Mike and Coach Nick (Perry) recruited unbelievable players. We all wanted each other to succeed. We didn’t win the Robertson Cup, but we put ourselves on the leader board.
In your final season 2019-2020, where were your sights set?
Again, the coaches recruited great people, and we were a very close team. I, personally, wanted to be that guy who followed the leads of the greats he watched. Unfortunately, the season was cut short. I wish we could have advanced to the Robertson Cup again.
What have you learned from your years in hockey?
It’s more than a sport, especially in Johnstown. Through our community service, we learned to become young men and act as role models for younger kids. I learned to be a man and carry myself in that way.
How did you feel about living in Johnstown?
I loved the support the team got from fans, sponsors and the team administration. It made us want to come to the rink every day. My favorite part was the people, I have never been welcomed into so many homes and felt so comfortable there. I’ve made lifelong friends and family, and was blessed to play with great people.
What are your thoughts on the high honors you received?
I couldn’t have done it without my teammates, coaches and billet parents. I was super blessed to receive these awards and to play in Johnstown for three years. You always want yourself and your team to succeed and you always want to make someone proud. I hope I’ve done that in Johnstown.