Michael J. Bycina, a well-known center and right winger from his days as a young hockey player in Kaisertown and with several Buffalo Sabres minor league affiliates, died Saturday in the Cleveland Clinic after a brief illness. The Buffalo native was 52.
The West Seneca resident was a local senior account executive for the California-based Toshiba America Medical Systems Co.
A 1982 graduate of St. Francis High School, Athol Springs, he began playing hockey in Kaisertown at age 12, playing in the Houghton Park League against 13- and 14-year-olds. His love of hockey and sports in general continued for the rest of his life, said his wife, Dina Marie.
He was the only member of his freshman class at St. Francis to make that school's varsity hockey team, and in the early 1980s, he played for the Buffalo Junior Sabres when they captured back-to-back national championships, Mrs. Bycina said.
He studied at Empire State College and earned a bachelor's degree in communications and a master's degree in education at Buffalo State College. For a year he then attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, playing on that school's hockey team. He also played for the Mohawk Valley Stars and the Erie (Pa.) Blades in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. In 1985, legendary Sabres coach Scott Bowman invited him to the Sabres training camp; he signed a contract with the club, his wife said.
While in the Sabres organization, he played for the Flint (Mich.) Spirits of the International Hockey League and the Moncton Hawks of the American Hockey League until injuries ended his hockey career.
In the early 1990s, he spent three years in Hawaii, teaching high school math and computer science and competing in the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon.
Returning to Buffalo, he coached bantam league hockey as well as hockey and cross-country at Queen of Heaven School in West Seneca, Mrs. Bycina said. Last year, he coached son Michael John's youth hockey team, the Southtown Stars, and recently, the Buffalo Saints in bantam league Triple-A..
In addition to his wife and son, survivors include his daughter, Allana Marie; his father, John A.; and his brother, John A. Jr.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in Fourteen Holy Helpers Catholic Church, 1345 Indian Church Road, West Seneca.