by Darcy Hamilton || AHL On The Beat Archive
Every once in a while there are things in life that feel like destiny, like fate. It’s hard to look at Worcester Sharks goaltender Troy Grosenick’s story and not feel he’s doing what he was always meant to do.
He attended his first hockey game when he was less than a month old. He was named after Vancouver Canucks goalie Troy Gamble, who became popular in the Grosenick household during his time with the Milwaukee Admirals.
Grosenick grew up in Brookfield, Wis., attending Admirals games – his parents had season tickets – and watching the University of Wisconsin men’s ice hockey team on television.
Daily life and hockey were inextricably linked. When Troy was in kindergarten and answered three math questions correctly, he ran around the room in jubilation, exclaiming, “I got a hat trick!”
In his first year of youth hockey, Troy played left wing, but his heart simply wasn’t in it.
“Even when he hadn’t started playing goalie yet, Troy used to go down to the basement with his baseball mitt and have tennis balls thrown at him while he stood in net,” his father Scott reminisced. “He could never get enough of it.”
At the end of his first season playing hockey, his coach explained that they needed a new goaltender. Troy volunteered for the position and never looked back.
Not only did he have the skill necessary to be a great goaltender, he also possessed the drive.
“Troy has always been very competitive,” his mother Jan said with a smile. “It runs in the family. Game night can get ugly in the Grosenick household.”
When asked about his family’s impact on his hockey career, Troy recalls the long hours his dad would spend helping him practice his goaltending skills.
His family was always willing to help, but they insist that it is Troy’s work ethic and sharp mind that have gotten him this far.
“Troy was one of those kids that just didn’t have a hard time balancing schoolwork and hockey,” Jan explained. “Everything came easily to him. Don’t get me wrong, he works hard, but he is just naturally very smart and very capable.”
Out of high school, Troy, like many young hockey hopefuls, entered the USHL, playing for the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders. As he honed his goaltending abilities, he began to field offers from a number of highly respected college hockey programs.
Both his mother and father have such a high level of confidence in him, that when it came time for Troy to select a college to attend, they let him take the reins.
“Obviously, you want your child to go to a school with strong academic standing. As Troy was going through his options, we started to get nervous,” his parents recollected. “He was turning down a lot of really good academic schools. But, we knew we had to let him make his own decision.”
Troy was well aware of his parents’ desires, and in fact, he shared many of them.
“Academics have always been really important in my family. We all believe in the importance of education, and in looking for a school to attend, academics were a big factor.”
One school in particular stood out to Troy. Union College, in Schenectady, N.Y., made itself the clear winner in the decision in a highly unusual way.
“I liked that they didn’t promise me anything,” explained Grosenick. “They never said to me, ‘You’re guaranteed to get the starting job.’ They made it clear I would have to work for what I got there, and that appealed to me a lot.”
True to their word, Troy was not given the starting job right away.
“In my first year at Union, I only started one game. I was a backup pretty much all season, and it allowed me to put in that extra work in the weight room and on the ice in practice so that when I got the call, I would be ready.”
Not only did he impress in the weight room and during practice, he also stood out in the classroom. Grosenick was doing so well in his classes that he was asked by the university to take notes for a disabled student. His friends and teammates were often left in awe of his ability to balance his schedule.
Grosenick believes firmly that the first year of just study and conditioning was just the thing he needed to elevate his game in the following season. The results don’t lie.
In his first year with the starting job at Union, Grosenick shattered expectations for himself and his team.
Grosenick was recognized in a number of major ways for his exceptional play in his sophomore season, including winning the Ken Dryden Award for the ECAC Goaltender of the Year, and being selected to the 2011-12 ECAC First Team All-League. He was also named a First-Team AHCA All-American and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, the award given out to the top NCAA men’s ice hockey player each year.
Many college hockey players will not even receive one of these honors, let alone all of them. However, to hear Grosenick talk about his college years, you would never know the individual successes he’s had. For him, it’s all about the team.
“My favorite hockey moment was probably when we won regionals my sophomore year,” Grosenick says. “That was a really cool moment.”
Not only was it cool, it was history. When Grosenick and the 2011-12 Union College Dutchmen made it to the Frozen Four that year, it was the first time in school history that a men’s hockey team had done so.
His family also remembers that season as being one of the greatest.
“When Union won regionals that year, all the memories just came flooding back,” both parents agree.
“It was just so amazing to see all the years of hard work pay off for him. It was a very emotional time.”
Although eliminated before the championship game, Grosenick and his teammates put Union College on the map, and in doing so, Troy put himself on the map as well.
He remained at Union for one more year before signing a contract with the San Jose Sharks, which has led him to Worcester. It was one of the hardest decisions he’s ever had to make, but he hasn’t completely left school behind.
“It’s really important to me that I get my degree from Union,” Grosenick said. “I have almost enough credits to graduate and I’ll be able to walk in the spring of 2014.”
Currently, Grosenick is writing a senior thesis that his father describes as “‘Moneyball’ for hockey.”
In the coming months, Grosenick hopes to make the kind of impact with the Sharks organization that he made at Union, and if his history of success is any indication, the future looks pretty bright.
Don’t hold your breath for the success to go to Troy Grosenick’s head. The truth is, it will only make him work harder.