The words “zero regrets” roll off Tyler Beskorowany’s tongue as easy as if he was making a clutch save in a Elite League title-winning game. Having had his fill of pro hockey, the 32-year-old has announced his retirement from the game.
Then, again, adding a Play-Off title with the Belfast Giants still eludes him…
… no. He’s done. As the heroic Giants netminder surveys life back in Canada with wife Sarah and son Austen, Beskorowany knows he has made the right decision to hang up the skates, along with the oversized stick and goalie mask.
"We got back and the situation was right for us to stay. It didn't really make sense to go back for another year with everything we have set up here,” he explains from his home in Sudbury.
"It wasn't easy, especially at the beginning with the transition, but it was definitely the right decision.”
Hero is a big word to use for someone who only spent two seasons in Belfast and yet is is an appropriate one for someone who managed to coin the phrase ‘Beskomania’ during his time at the SSE Arena.
He was – technically still is – beloved by fans for his jaw-dropping, almost physics-defying saves. Think back to that Continental Cup game against GKS Katowice. Or only a few months ago against the Sheffield Steelers when he somehow, against all odds, tipped a shot onto the post that he had no right to get to, leaving the Utilita Arena in stunned silence.
The Giants would go on to win that game 2-1 in a shoot-out. They would also lift the Elite League title that evening.
Beskorowany was central to that success, and he now leaves the Giants at the peak of his powers, his .922 save percentage and 2.34 goals against average from his first spell with the team in 2018/19 already sensational, only for him to better it three years later with a stats line of .931 and 1.71.
He won 93 games and lost just 27. He lifted four trophies from a possible seven – two Elite League titles and two Challenge Cups – and was the Elite League’s most valuable player in the first season he played in Belfast.
Fans will remember him just as fondly for how, after each home win, he would slowly skate back towards Boomerang Corner in the arena before throwing his arms up three times to the cheers of the crowd. Little did he know he had done it one last time in their Play-Off Quarter-Final win over the Coventry Blaze in April.
All that and more made it tough for Beskorowany to leave. He has friends in Belfast and, not being big-headed, he knows he could go back to the Giants next season and repeat his exceptional form for another year, perhaps even more.
But life back home is good. They’re finally moved into the home they bought a year ago, wife Sarah has found her dream job and son Austen is settled in day care thanks to help from a family friend. Beskorowany himself has found a good job, too.
It all just seemed to click into place now.
“I haven't celebrated Christmas at home with my family in probably 10, 12 years now. Little things like that you miss, you know?” he expands.
"You appreciate the time at home with your family, your friends. We haven't stopped this summer trying to make up for lost time, and with Covid over the last couple of years we haven't seen our friends and family as much as we'd want to.
“I don't feel like I have anything left to prove or achieve in the game, asides from the treble, which is obviously so tough to do. Winning last year, winning two championships, was a huge accomplishment for me and the team, and to go out on that... a lot of guys want that and they don't get it. So I'm fortunate to leave on a high like that.
"Another big reason is my health. I'm still healthy. I see a lot of guys with their shoulders and they can't play with their kids as much anymore, or they're going for surgeries and stuff. I'm fortunate with my health. I can walk away on my own terms, not with someone telling me that there's nowhere for me because of my age or injuries.
"Having accomplished all that makes it so much easier to call it a career. I'm extremely fortunate.”
What Beskorowany has accomplished as a professional in just 11 seasons will not be replicated by the majority of goaltenders to grace the ice not just in Belfast, but worldwide.
He’s played in America, Canada, Germany, Scotland, Austria and Slovakia, as well as in Northern Ireland. As well as all his personal accolades with the Giants, he was DEL Netminder of the Year with Düsseldorfer EG in 2015 and had the most wins (33) in the Slovak Extraliga during his season with HC Banska Bystrica in 2020.
There were few seasons that did not go his way. Some may look at how he was drafted by the Dallas Stars in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft in 2008 but never made ‘The Show’ as a disappointment, but then he may never would have had his experiences in Europe if he had.
Even in a short spell in 2018 with the soon-to-be-doomed Edinburgh Capitals he impressed, a particularly memorable performance against the Giants at the SSE Arena earning him a lucrative move across the Irish Sea a few months later.
In hindsight, it was a decision that worked out well for both parties. For the Giants, they got an Elite League-winning netminder. For Beskorowany, he found a second home.
It helps given all the personal and team success he had there, of course, but the love that he got from the organisation and the fans was reciprocated and that, in turn, meant the performances were always of a high standard. The name Beskorowany quickly became synonymous with the franchise.
“The Giants are unbelievable. From top to bottom. They've made our transition easy,” he adds.
"Coming to the games, having all that support whether it was at home or on the road, it made it special to come to the rink every day and enjoy it. Most places we went to we had a massive support behind us and it made it that much easier to play on roads and win hockey games. To have people follow you like that is very special.
"I think I did pretty well with the fans. To be able to go out and put on a show and make fans happy was special for me. It's a top notch organisation.
“Everything we went through both years I won't forget, whether it was winning or losing. The Continental Cup, losing the Final in a shoot-out, I think I built off that as a person and as a player. It wasn't a fun feeling, but it's still a good memory battling back to beat Katowice and make it to that last game to play against Arlan. Just to have that be a meaningful game... that was a lot of fun.
"Every season we started with our mind to win every trophy and we put ourselves in a position to win every one, and to do that isn't an easy feat. The old Play-Off Finals got the best of us twice, but two out of three ain't bad, and four out of seven is pretty good as well.
"A lot of memories were made.”
He takes those memories into the next chapter of life, a chapter that does not involve hockey, at least as a primary source of income. The facemask, stick and glove might be hung up permanently but the skates will make a return from time to time, particularly when Austen becomes big enough to step on the ice.
Last season the 32-year-old was an assistant coach to Adam Keefe and he’s planning on putting those skills to good use. Where, he doesn't know yet, but the plan is for coaching to be a part of his future in some shape or form.
In the meantime, the Giants must move on, as they do every year. Losing the League’s top netminder to retirement is a bitter blow, but players come and go every year, so this is nothing new. Still, this one will hurt just that little bit more – or maybe in this case a lot more – than some other departures would.
If it’s any consolation, Beskorowany is firm in his insistence that Belfast has not seen the last of them yet.
“We'll definitely be back. We've talked about it already,” he maintains.
"Maybe not in the next year or two but we're planning a trip back out to see friends and maybe see a hockey game or two. This year was tougher to travel with Austen, so there's plenty still to see and do.”
But, for now, it’s goodbye.
And so we come back to that age old, clichéd retirement question we began with. After 11 seasons split across seven countries, with four trophies and a ridiculous number of personal accolades in his back pocket… any regrets?
"I don't have any regrets,” he concludes, allowing himself another nostalgic smile.
“I look back on my career, and what makes me have no regrets is when I look at my friends and family and I think to myself that I've seen parts of the world that 95 per cent of people around me will never see.
"Obviously I've missed out on a lot of things at home, which is maybe one of my regrets, but at the same time, to be able to do what I've done to this point, I'm very fortunate.
"So, no. Zero regrets.”