Mark Taylor strikes the pose of his famous grandfather, Fred “Cyclone” Taylor, at the sports store he co-owns in Surrey. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Mark Taylor’s hockey life: A ‘Cyclone’ for grandpa, pro days in NHL and new gig as DHA coach

Retail store operator embraces the role of coaching female hockey players

Mark Taylor has a new job in hockey to look forward to next season. But right now, like most people amid this pandemic, he has time to look back on a game that has kept his attention since he heard NHL stories told by his grandfather, the great Fred “Cyclone” Taylor.

A South Surreyite, Taylor will coach the U18 Female Prep team for Delta Hockey Academy starting this fall, after he won five straight league titles with the Greater Vancouver Comets of B.C. Hockey’s Major Midget female program.

The COVID-19-shortened 2019-20 season was looking promising, too.

“We had one loss all season, including tournament play, and the last two years have been really phenomenal,” Taylor said. “I had a really good group of girls playing.”

During hockey season, Taylor splits his work life between coaching and running the four Cyclone Taylor Sports stores he co-owns with his brother, Rick, including the one in the Panorama area where Taylor “hangs his hat” most often.

The retailer was launched in 1957 by their father, Fred Jr., who used his famous father’s nickname name in tribute. After all, “Cyclone” helped the Vancouver Millionaires to win the city’s first and only Stanley Cup, way back in 1915.

Mark Taylor got involved in running the family business after he ended his 12-year pro hockey career, which in the first half of the 1980s included six years in the NHL with Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

“I always said I was not going to get involved in the family business,” Taylor said. “I had my business degree from (the University of) North Dakota and I took some courses when I was playing in Europe, some brokerage courses. I had my license so I thought I wanted to be a stockbroker or financial planner and blah blah blah. But then I came back home and my dad and brother were saying, you know, give it a chance, the family business. And so I finally relented and did that and loved it. I mean, it’s been really good. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s allowed me to coach and have a good family life, so that’s been good. I lucked out there, for sure.”

Like so many other businesses right now, the COVID-19 virus has forced Cyclone Taylor Sports to temporarily close retail locations and shift sales of hockey and lacrosse gear to the company website.

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Now 62, Taylor remembers his grandpa coming for Sunday dinner and watching him play at Kerrisdale Arena in Vancouver.

“He lived in that area, so he’d come watch games,” Taylor said. “It was fun growing up with him around but you never really fully appreciate it when you’re that age. He was just Granddad, not Cyclone Taylor. But it’s funny because when I was a freshman at North Dakota, we were going to Michigan Tech to play, and someone arranged for him to come on that trip because his first professional team was in Houghton, Michigan. He hadn’t been back to town in 70 years so they basically shut down the whole town, you know – a big sign, ‘welcome back, Cyc!’ And so I’m 19 thinking, ‘Wow, I guess this guy was something special. He must have been pretty good.’”

While playing at UND, Taylor won the college MVP award, later called the Hobey Baker, and earned a national championship. He recently returned to the university for a ceremony organized to celebrate that 1980 team.

Following his days in North Dakota, Taylor scored 51 goals in two seasons with Maine Mariners, the AHL affiliate of the NHL Flyers, who’d picked him in 100th overall in the 1978 NHL Entry Draft.

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PICTURED: Mark Taylor on a hockey card during his days playing for the Philadelphia Flyers.

By 1981, he got his chance to play in Philadelphia. That season, the team was first in the NHL to wear the long Cooperall pants, and it would be the final year in the league for legendary team captain Bobby Clarke.

“Yeah, that was exciting for me,” Taylor said. “I mean, a player like that, and I got along really well with him, but we had a lot of good players on that team, like Bill Barber and Brian Propp, Paul Holmgren, Mark Howe. Gordie Howe would always be coming into town and watching his son play. So it was pretty cool getting to know Gordie Howe a little bit.”

He went from the minors to the NHL with goaltender Pelle Lindbergh, whose life ended in a 1985 car crash.

“I played with him three years, two in the American League together, and then we both came up to the big club together,” Taylor recalled. “I think he would have been a superstar and was well on his way, and a really nice guy. His death was very sad and unfortunate.”

Taylor was traded by the Flyers to Pittsburgh, where Mario Lemieux was just getting his start in 1984.

“So I got to sit back and watch this young superstar,” Taylor said. “There was a new coach, Bob Berry, in my second year there and I wasn’t used very much, and didn’t get a chance to play with Mario, unfortunately. Then shortly after I was traded to Washington, where there was another powerful team with Scott Stevens and Rod Langway, Mike Gartner, Larry Murphy and Davey Christian and Bobby Carpenter, so there was some really nice players there as well. I was very fortunate to play with some of the best.”

After his NHL days, Taylor played in Europe for five years – Switzerland for four, Germany just one – before he made his way back to Canada and entered the family business.

By the 2000s, his daughters Megan and Mya began playing hockey. Taylor got involved as a coach and never left, even though both girls have now “aged out” of minor hockey.

Coaching the female game at a high level is something he loves.

“It’s definitely a different game, obviously less hitting and more puck possession,” Taylor explained. “I really found myself liking the game, and the way you coach females is also a bit different. A friend of mine, Ryan Walter, told me this, and I think he’s bang-on, is that with guys, if you don’t talk to one of them for three weeks, they’re fine with that, they think it’s great. But if you don’t talk to one of your female players for three weeks, they wonder what’s wrong – ‘Why is he not talking to me?,’ right. You just have to communicate more with the females, which is what I do. Another thing I found is that boys have to play good to feel good, and females have to feel good to play good.”

Ian Gallagher, director of Delta Hockey Academy, says he’s thrilled to have Taylor aboard for a long-term coaching position.

“Mark’s extensive experience coaching female hockey and his commitment to the growth of the female game will be a great addition to our female program at the Delta Hockey Academy,” Gallagher said in an announcement posted to deltahockeyacademy.com.

In joining DHA, Taylor said it’s been a few years of “talking back and forth” with Gallagher about a coaching job there.

“This year it seemed like the timing was right and there was a fit, and I’m excited to go,” Taylor said.

“I mean the big thing with Delta, for me, is that they practice in the mornings, which is a lot easier for my life and my business, instead of getting home at 11:00 or 11:30 at night on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was starting to become a bit more difficult for me. I’m a morning person and my wife gets up at five in the morning, so that really works.

“And I just really like the assets Delta has that the coaches can use, more time on the ice, more time in the gym. At Delta, they’ve done such a good job with all of that, with additional coaches and other programs, because to me what really excites me is being able to develop these young girls. And you know, we did the best we can with the Comets and I think we did a pretty good job, but this now having more things at my disposal is even more exciting.”

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