By Matt Mackinder
They’re not at the status level of Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin or Laraine Newman, but the young Toledo Cherokee forward line of Jordan Fogarty, Brandon Layman and Tyler Zalecki is putting its own spin on being “Coneheads.”
While none of the Cherokee players were even born when the Saturday Night Live sketch originated some 35 years ago, the trio has known one another for quite some time and has been on the same Cherokee youth teams growing up in the Toledo and surrounding areas for the past three seasons.
All high school seniors, each of them brings a new dimension to the Cherokee’s NA3HL team this year and all feel at home as they knew what the program was all about.
“I was familiar with the Toledo program and thought it was a great opportunity to play in my hometown and it would give me the best shot to move up,” said Zalecki. “I was able to stay home and finish my senior year of high school, too. I feel that I am off to a good start this season. I was nervous in the beginning, but I seem to be adapting well to the junior program. The veterans on the team have been very helpful to us rookies and really want us to succeed.
“Fogarty, Layman and I are great friends. We train together on and off the ice. We are like brothers and we hang out whenever we can. We were fortunate to have been on the same team for the past three years and last year when we were on the power play together, we just clicked. I know I can always count on Fogs and Layman to be there because they always know where to be. It has been great to share the first year of juniors with my best friends.”
As the three close friends explained, some of the older players on the Cherokee stuck the “conehead” moniker on the three earlier this season and the name stuck.
“I get along extremely well with Zalecki and Layman as we have played together for the last three years,” said Fogarty, whose father, Ron, has been the head coach at Division III Adrian College since its inception in 2007 and a Division I assistant for 10 years prior to that. “We have great chemistry on and off the ice and the other guys on the team noticed that and came up with the nickname. This season has had its up and downs. We just had a coaching change and I feel (Kenny) Miller has us headed in the right direction. We are a young team and hope to keep improving each game.”
Layman has been with the Cherokee organization since it began and always figured he’d wind up in the NA3HL.
“Being a young player, we always looked up to the junior team and hope the young players now do the same,” said Layman. “I didn't know a whole lot about the league, but found out it was a great steppingstone for higher leagues and a good starting point for myself. Being such a young team, I feel like we surprised a lot of people with our play and record thus far.”
Hockey has always been in Fogarty’s blood and he said he owes that to his father.
“My dad has been extremely influential when it comes to hockey,” Fogarty said. “He has given me everything I've ever needed to become the best player I can. He has great knowledge about the game and cannot only help me become a better hockey player, but stresses the importance of the classroom, too.”
Still, when it comes down to it, hockey is about having fun, said Zalecki and he couldn’t imagine this season being anything but smiles.
“Our team has had some ups and downs this season so far and we are adjusting to a new coach, but as a team, each day we are working harder and getting better,” Zalecki said. “Our team not only works hard, but we have fun. I am having a great time with the boys and it truly has been a great experience so far.”