A successful hockey player brings many components to the ice: speed, strength, and endurance to name just a few. Though often overlooked, perhaps the most pivotal component of all is heart. Sarnia Sting captain Nathan Chiarlitti brings just that to the OHL. It’s easy to see why this 19-year-old Ontario native has been Sarnia’s captain for the past three years. With a genuine personality, it’s clear that Chiarlitti is respectful and appreciative of those that surround him on and off the ice.
Most children realize their love of the sport at a young age, and for Chiarlitti it was no different.
“Sunday afternoons the rink by my house had public skating. My dad and I would go out on the ice and wheel around a little bit,” said Chiarlitti. “When I was six years old, it kind of just took off.”
Sunday afternoon skating has turned into years of on-ice success that will hopefully have the end result that all young hockey players yearn for.
“I definitely want to play in the NHL, even pro hockey. When I was a little kid I wanted to play in the big show.”
Yearning can only get you so far, and perhaps it’s that knowledge that has helped fuel the fire for Chiarlitti’s success. Some of his accomplishments thus far include being named to Team Ontario for both the 16-and-under and U-18 squads.
“I remember getting that phone call. I was in tears on the phone,” said Chiarlitti. “It was unbelievable.”
Both humble and appreciative of his accomplishments, Chiarlitti was most recently named to Team OHL in the 2011 Subway Super Series, an honor that not only came as a surprise to the 6’0″, 197-pound underdog defenseman, but also as a realization.
“It was a good chance for me,” he said. “I can play with these guys. I do belong in this class and I can play at this caliber.”
It’s not only Chiarlitti who is noticing his own potential.
“It’s that old problem that a good d-man faces when he’s on a bad team. Nathan has been matched against the opposing teams’ top lines for as long as I can remember,” Mark Edwards, the founder/director of hockeyprospect.com, said. “That is not good for your stat page when you play for a really bad team. Chiarlitti is a very good shutdown defender who is now on a good team for the first time in his OHL career. He is smart and reads plays well. He understands his position and wins the one-on-one battles. People are finally beginning to notice what this kid is capable of.”
In hockey it’s not just about you as an individual player, but as a member of the team. While Chiarlitti is focused on keeping it simple and having a defense-first mentality, he didn’t become captain without having a constant care and regard for his team.
“As a captain, I’m trying to preach consistency night in and night out,” he said.
That consistency of play extends to not only winning games, but keeping the momentum during tough periods as well. It can be hard to lead a team, but Chiarlitti extends his own view and personal play to his teammates.
“Keep it simple, bring it back to basics,” he said.
Basics and simplicity have brought what some deemed an underperforming team for the past few seasons back among the league’s top squads, as Sarnia ranked second in their division with 34 points through 23 games.
A basic thought is that it’s the love of the game that gets you to a certain point in your career. It’s the love of the game mixed with a strong work ethic and motivation that brings you to the next level of play.
“I’m the most motivated player. I don’t have all the skill in the world and I’m not the biggest guy,” said Chiarlitti. “But when I’m going up against someone you can almost guarantee that I’ll be outworking them.”
It’s that kind of commitment to not only the game but yourself as a player that defines future successes.
“Even the last couple years, I’ll do things that normally players wouldn’t want to do,” said Chiarlitti. “If it means blocking shots, that’s what Ill do. If it means taking a huge hit to make a simple play or staying on the ice after practice, that’s what I’ll do.”
It’s dedication like that which truly shows what kind of hockey player that Nathan Chiarlitti has become over the course of his young career. His motivation, strength, work ethic and tremendous heart will hopefully light the lamp on a bright hockey future.