Tadjdeh Ably Tending Twine for Trojans

Courtesy SAIT Trojans

The ancient Persians never did get the hang of refrigeration technology . . . which is, you understand, why there’s no direct translation for “ice hockey.”

But twenty-five hundred years after Cyrus the Great, this Persian is making one mighty fine Trojan.

Mike Tadjdeh’s parents both arrived in Canada from parts of the world where hockey, if it’s played at all, generally involves artificial turf, penalty flicks, and balls with cork centres. Tadjdeh, though, chose the quintessential frozen Canadian pastime just as quickly as any of his friends in southwest Calgary — and his pursuit of icy glory has led him to SAIT Arena, where he’s carrying the load between the pipes down the stretch for the SAIT Trojans as a freshman collegiate goaltender.

“My dad (Jim) came over to Canada from Iran, and my mom (Theresa) is from Spain,” says Tadjdeh, 21. “I grew up playing soccer here like pretty much every other kid, but my uncle on my mom’s side (John Bagni) was a hockey goalie in Spain, which of course is still pretty rare.

“So maybe — as strange as it sounds, since I was the one living in Canada — I got the idea from him.”

Tadjdeh (1st year, Calgary, welding technician) spent last season as the starting goaltender with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Okotoks Oilers, before making the move up to the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) this winter. He’s fit in comfortably with the Trojans, sharing crease time with fellow rookie goalie Brayden Hopfe (1st year, Didsbury, Alta., geomatic engineering technology) and assembling the ACAC’s third-best goals-against average (1.88) in the process.

The Trojans (15-3-4), two points back of the NAIT Ooks for top spot in the ACAC, will host the Portage College Voyageurs (12-8-2) twice this weekend at SAIT Arena. The two-game set begins Friday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m., and continues on Saturday, Feb. 2 at 2 p.m.

Jim Tadjdeh moved to Canada in 1980, not long after the Iranian Revolution, and remembers being intrigued by the game of hockey — and while Mike didn’t need much in the way of encouragement, having picked up the game at the novice age level, he definitely got it from his dad.

“I used to watch once in a while when I was in the United States (attending university in Florida), but I wasn’t very interested in it until Michael started playing hockey,” recalls Jim Tadjdeh, who owns the Creekside Bar and Grill in Canyon Meadows. “The more he played, the more interested I got in hockey.”

Tadjdeh played on an accelerated path once he reached midget age — spending two seasons with the Edge School for Athletes Mountaineers varsity squad, then jumping to the Western Hockey League for stints with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Spokane Chiefs, before concluding his junior career with two years in Okotoks.

Trojan teammate Travis Bradshaw (4th year, Calgary, power and process operations, AJHL Calgary Royals) shares a similar story to Tadjdeh’s. Travis was the only one of the Bradshaw clan to pursue hockey — with the full support of his father Phil, who’d moved to Canada from the ice-free Mediterranean country of Malta with pretty much a non-existent hockey knowledge base.

“Soccer was my dad’s sport. He played in a professional league over there,” says Bradshaw. “When I started to play hockey, he learned it as I learned it. He loved the pace of it, and just how fast the game moved. It was Canada’s game, Canada had adopted him, and he wanted to learn everything about Canada.”

Tadjdeh has the ACAC’s second-best save percentage, at 92.6, and a record of 10-2-2 — as well as back-to-back shutouts on Jan. 19 against the University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings (31 saves) and Jan. 25 against the MacEwan University Griffins (27 saves). What has truly impressed the rest of the team, though, is his composed outlook.

“It helps to stay on an even keel, for sure. At this position, you can’t let things get to you,” says Tadjdeh. “If anything, that’ll just make things worse.”

Yes, but don’t be fooled, says longtime SAIT head coach Ken Babey, who notes there’s a competitive fire always burning in this five-foot-10, 185-pounder.

“Mike’s got a very calm demeanour, but with a competitive edge. Sometimes people think you have to be hyper and emotional to be seen as competitive, but that’s not always the case,” says Babey. “It’s all about how strong, mentally focused, and driven you are — and I see that in Mike.

“Mike’s a very agile, skilled goalie. He’s adjusted very well to the college game, and he’s been a good addition.”