“It’s crazy how sometimes just a change of pace might do you really well,” Nathan Chiarlitti said.
This mentality really rings true for Chiarlitti, who, at the age of sixteen, said that it would be a big disappointment if he joined a university hockey team, but when he finished his own university hockey career, he called those moments of his life his best years ever.
Chiarlitti is currently one of the assistant coaches of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees (U of O) men’s hockey team. Prior to coming in to the organization, Chiarlitti has had an extensive hockey career, one in which started with him playing for the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget AAA team of the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL).
“My dad took me to the community rink, on Sundays, and I slowly just picked up the game, played a lot of road hockey growing up as a kid, and that kind of just took off,” Chiarlitti said about his start in hockey.
Prior to his coaching stint at U of O, Chiarlitti played for the Sarnia Sting and the Owen Sound Attack of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), the Canada Ontario U17 team in the 2008-09 World Hockey Championships, the Canada U18 team in the 2009-10 World Junior Championships, the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men and the McGill Redmen of USports, and the Sydney Ice Dogs of the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL).
While a part of the Sting, Chiarlitti played in 255 games, recording 15 goals and 43 assists for 58 points.
“It was a really great experience. Just being around the guys and the connections you make, and the community, and within the organization, so, it was a lot of fun, great learning curves, it was fantastic.”
While in Sarnia, from 2008-11, Chiarlitti was paired up on defence with Brent Sullivan, an assistant coach who was with the Gee-Gees when Chiarlitti joined the organization.
“He’s a really great guy. We were close friends back then, we’re close friends now, and he’s taught me a lot over the years. He really had the opportunity there to alienate me when I was 16, but he took me under his wing and he’s been a great mentor,” Chiarlitti said about Sullivan.
Between his first three seasons with Sarnia, Chiarlitti played for the Ontario U17 team and the Canadian U18 team. While on the U17 team, Chiarlitti played in six games while recording one goal and one assist for two points. While he was on the U18 team, Chiarlitti played in six games.
“That team was a bit of a disaster. We ended up losing three of our first four games and we almost relegated, but it was a really good experience. Anytime you throw on that Canadian jersey it’s an absolute privilege, so, I’m fortunate to have played for Canada,” Chiarlitti said about being on the U18 team and playing for his country.
After spending four seasons playing for Sarnia, Chiarlitti got traded to the Owen Sound Attack in the 2012-13 season. While part of the Attack, Chiarlitti played in 80 games, while recording 1 goal and 31 assists for 32 points, and things, “actually worked out pretty well. I had a really good season, personally, and with our hockey team.”
Chiarlitti began his university hockey career in Nova Scotia, when he went to St. Francis Xavier (StFX) enrolling in a Bachelor of Science, in Human Kinetics. While there, he joined the StFX X-Men, and played in 99 games, recording 10 goals and 35 assists for 45 points. In the 2014-15 season, Chiarlitti won the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) championship with the X-Men.
While a part of the X-Men, Chiarlitti was on the same team as Eric Locke, a player who is now captain of the Gee-Gees.
“Locke’s first year, we had an okay team, but his second year we ended up winning the AUS, and it’s one of the best hockey moments of my life, so, it was a lot of fun, the group of guys were amazing, the city is incredible, and it was just a good experience overall,” Chiarlitti said.
After completing his Bachelor’s at StFX, Chiarlitti then enrolled in a Master’s of Science in Kinesiology at McGill University. While at McGill, Chiarlitti spent two season playing for the McGill Redmen playing in 63 games, recording 12 goals and 25 assists for 37 points. In the 2017-18 season, Chiarlitti won the Queen’s Cup with the Redmen in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs.
“It was a lot of fun. Coming to a team like that, obviously such a rich tradition, and our first year we did pretty good, but our second year we overcame a bunch of adversity, especially in the playoffs. And I always give the coaching staff here a little joke because we squeaked by Ottawa in the second round,” Chiarlitti said.
“But I think that experience not only came full circle with my hockey career, but allowed me to draw upon a lot of things I learned throughout my life that hopefully I’m helping the guys here at the University of Ottawa with,” he added.
Following his five years of university hockey eligibility, Chiarlitti travelled to Australia to play for the Sydney Ice Dogs of the AIHL. While a part of the Ice Dogs, Chiarlitti played in nine games, while recording five goals and 11 assists for 16 points.
“That experience was fantastic. An incredible ice hockey league in Australia, and anyone who’s fortunate enough to go down there should definitely take the opportunity, because it’s an amazing experience, the lifestyle’s awesome, and you’re seeing another part of the world,” Chiarlitti said.
While a part of the X-Men and the Redmen, Chiarlitti was awarded with the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) AUS Outstanding Student-Athlete Godfrey award, and the Outstanding Student-Athlete Dr. Randy Gregg award, he was named to the CIS Second All-Star team for four straight seasons from 2014-18, and he was awarded the CIS OUA East Outstanding Student-Athlete awards.
“I think as hockey players we have such an opportunity to be examples for younger hockey players on how to act, and our work ethic, not only on the ice, but in the classroom and in the community,” Chiarlitti said.
“So, I think its really important to be a well-rounded individual because you have that opportunity to shape younger people too, so its always been a goal of mine to focus on school work and focus on being heavily involved in the community and community events,” he added.
So far, while helping coach the Gee-Gees, Chiarlitti is on course to complete his MD and PhD at the U of O. While he has made the jump from playing hockey, to now helping coach a team, Chiarlitti says that he has enjoyed his time with the Gee-Gees so far.
“It’s definitely challenging, but what I really enjoy this year is just being around the team. The camaraderie is what I miss most about playing, and I think, when guys step away from the game, it’s not so much the competition they miss, it’s not the practices, and it’s definitely not the bus trips, it’s being around the guys.”
Although Chiarlitti has faced many challenges and adversities throughout his hockey career, he believes that he is a stronger and more mature individual on and off the ice now due to the adversities he has faced.
“My friends will say that I haven’t matured at all, but I’d like to think I have. But I think its just about keeping setbacks in perspective, and realizing that at the end of the day, you can get better, and they can be a learning tool. So, if I didn’t get into med school that’s fine, because I’ll be better, I’ll learn more, it’ll create another opportunity, and I think that’s the biggest thing that the sport has taught me, to keep an open mind,” Chiarlitti said.
Currently, Chiarlitti is writing a book called More Than a Game, which is set to be released on Mar. 12 th. The book will touch upon Chiarlitti’s hockey career, what the sport has taught him, how it has helped him and still helps him in his personal life, and it touches upon the lessons you learn when you reflect on the end of your career.
“The whole purpose of why I wrote More Than a Game was because I realized that at the end of my career, if I had known what I know now, it would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights. I know what it’s like to want scouts to notice you, want teams to pick you, want to get points, want your competition not to succeed, your team to win, all these different things. But I hope that players, coaches, parents, realize that yes, all those things might be happening in a season, but that the sport can teach you so many things about resilience, and perseverance, and work ethic, and commitment. That yeah, we throw those words around in casual conversation about the benefits, but we don’t really understand how much they impact our life until we’re away from the game.”
As for his future, Chiarlitti is excited for the future in his med school career, and he has said that his most favourite part about medicine, is engaging with patients.
“Anytime you can interact with patients and with other people, it makes things a lot more entertaining than reading and studying, not that you’re not doing that, but that patient interaction is what makes medicine special to me,” Chiarlitti said.
If you are interested in joining a university team, Chiarlitti highly recommends it if you have the chance to do so.
“I think playing university sport is awesome. The level of competition is really high, you get to experience a lifestyle that you don’t really see in Junior. And you also have that responsibility with school, and if there’s ever a decision between playing university and not playing, I’d completely recommend playing,” Chiarlitti said.
“There’s great players who go through it, there’s great programs, and you meet so many great people along the way that make the experience so memorable.”