ALEXANDRIA BAY — Inside the Alexandria Recreation Center, Tyler Stockman stared through the smudged glass at the ice rink in front of him. A charity hockey game, organized by Diana and John Shaylor in memory of their son Tyler, who died in 2016, was unfolding.
Stockman played in the game only a few years ago and also won the Tyler Shaylor Scholarship that Diana and John Shaylor set up in their son’s name.
But on Saturday, Stockman was stuck watching from the other side of the barrier, sitting in a wheelchair instead of gliding on skates. On July 27, 2019, Stockman suffered a severe neck injury when an awkward fall into the pool resulted in him hitting his head on the floor, shattering his C5 vertebra.
The accident left Stockman paralyzed from the chest down and forced the then 20-year-old to fight for his life for 17 days in the Intensive Care Unit.
While he talked Saturday, having already shown tremendous improvement beyond what was initially expected, Stockman kept an eye on the ice.
Despite being unable to play, he described the day as “surreal.” The event was officially called Team Tyler vs. Team Tyler, a hockey game between a team put together by Stockman and a team put together by Diana and John Shaylor, with John Shaylor participating in the game. Proceeds were dedicated toward Stockman’s recovery and the Tyler Shaylor Scholarship.
“I’ve been a part of things like this my whole life, but for it to not just be for me but for Tyler Shaylor as well, it’s really surreal,” Stockman said.
While Stockman kept his eye on the game, Diana Shaylor was on the other side of the rink, near the entrance, greeting people and selling raffle tickets. Wearing a green shirt, green scarf and a green hat, she matched the St. Patrick’s Day theme laid out on the table containing prizes and snacks.
On a ledge next to her was a framed photo of her and her son Tyler. In the photo Tyler, wearing his Islanders jersey, is hugging his mother and both of them are smiling.
Like Tyler Stockman, Tyler Shaylor lived and breathed hockey. Saturday’s event was something that he would have loved to play.
“He was an athlete, all-around sports, loved all the sports that there was and was very good at them, he was also an honor roll student,” Diana Shaylor said of her son. “Hockey of course was his favorite.”
Less than a year after a drug overdose took Tyler’s life, Diana and John Shaylor organized the first hockey event. “We wanted to do everything to just keep Tyler alive and going,” Diana Shaylor said of that first game.
It was a no-brainer to create an event that centered around hockey.
“When we think of Tyler (Shaylor) we think of hockey,” Diana Shaylor said. “That’s why we did the game and why on his birthday we go to a hockey game. I said we’re not going to sit at home and mope, he would have hated it and he would have wanted to go to every hockey that there was. And he did go to quite a few pro hockey games, so we’re carrying on the tradition and taking him with us to the hockey games.”
Diana Shaylor said that Saturday’s crowd was the biggest ever at the event. That type of support has helped Tyler Stockman and his family tremendously the past seven-and-a-half months. To keep friends and family updated on Tyler Stockman’s progress, a Facebook page called “Tyler Stockman’s Recovery Page” was created. Amy Stockman, his mother, posts to it almost daily, sharing details, photos and videos of Tyler’s recovery. The page has garnered more than 1,000 members and posting to it has been almost therapeutic for Amy Stockman.
“When this happens, despite the enormous amount of support, you’re in your little bubble and no one prepares you for this and you’re terrified, you’re terrified every day.” Amy Stockman said. “I think (posting to the page) was as important to us as it was to the people following, it’s like a relationship almost. They’re there for us and to know on the darkest days we can go back, and there were days in the ICU where my husband and I would do that. We would go back and read some of the messages and we could say ‘all right, we have support, we can do this, we’re not alone.’ And I think that’s the biggest thing. All the financial support, that is all incredible — but what I try to tell everybody when I thank them is that you don’t understand how just the support, that meant everything.”
Tyler Stockman and Tyler Shaylor never met but on Saturday they were connected by more than just their first names. From his seat next to his close friends Grace Goerger and Jackson Gill, Tyler Stockman watched as people of all ages skated up and down the ice, some wearing jerseys with “Shaylor” printed on the back. He was watching more than just a hockey game, he was watching Tyler Shaylor’s legacy.
Stockman almost always had a smile on his face. For him — especially given the situation that he’s in — being negative doesn’t do any good. At 21 years old, there is still plenty he wants to do and play hockey again is one of them.
“I just look at it as I can’t go back and change what happened,” Tyler Stockman said. “So I have to do what I can do to get better and keep pushing forward because being negative doesn’t help at all. It inhibits progress and if I want to play hockey again competitively or walk again, I have to do everything I can to keep going.”