Oakland Hockey goalie Tommy Grassano, has a passion for hockey, but he also has a passion for giving back to the community and those less fortunate than him.
While he has only appeared in a few minutes of game action, the impact from the Grassano family can be felt throughout the program. Tommy and his family have done various programs in South Carolina, the Bronx and now here in Detroit.
"Community service has always been important to me because of the community that I came from." Grassano stated. "Since before I was born, my family has done community service and kids programs in the South Bronx, NY and then in Detroit. Because of that experience, I feel very close to that community and now that I'm old enough to understand their need, it gives me the desire to help them."
His teammates have embraced the chance to get out in the community. One of the popular events is teaching children in Detroit street hockey and the value of sportsmanship. "My teammates have been very supportive of the community service that we do." Grassano stated.
"They have really stepped up and helped out at a few of our events. I can tell that they respect my family for what we do and I think that motivates them to help."
Grassano is especially grateful for two of his teammates, and the dedication they have shown to the programs that mean a lot to him and his family. Forward Greg Meuser and Defense Nate Richards, have gone above and beyond with what Tommy and his family have expected.
"Without a doubt Nate Richards and Greg Meuser". Grassano stated when asked who has stood out at these service events. "The other guys help out when they can but these two guys go out of their way to help. I can't say how much I appreciate them."
The communities that the street hockey programs have taken place, embraced the chance to learn a new sport, that otherwise, they may not have had a chance to experience and it has not gone unnoticed.
"A lot of people probably think that not many people from the inner city would be interested in hockey but the opposite is true." Grassano said.
"They really appreciate a team coming to them to be a positive influence to their kids, and also to tell them how important it is to do good in school. It shows them that their dreams can be possible whether they want to play pro sports or become something that can be a positive influence on society."
Grassano's only appearance in net was late in the final game of the season in the GLCHL Playoffs against #1 Adrian. It's a moment he will remember for a lifetime. "I love playing against good teams because it pushes me to be at the top of my game." He stated.
"I'm glad for that opportunity because even though it was for a few minutes, I believe that it changed my level of play and boosted my confidence."
This off-season Grassano has been working hard training, including on and off the ice."I've been staying very active during the off-season." Grassano stated."My family and I went back down to South Carolina for a couple weeks and I was able to train with my old trainer."
He is now, with a month left until practice resumes, preparing to return to the ice and training with Barwis Methods.
"Since then, I've been doing a workout at my home gym that was given to me by trainers at Barwis Methods. I've also been getting on the ice as much as possible."
"I will actually be going to the Bandits Elite Goalie Camp in August for a week. During that time I will be training with Barwis Methods. It almost feels like the season hasn't ended for me except I miss the boys."
Grassano knows his role in the program. He knew when he committed last season, that he was making a big jump and needed to continue making progress in his development process. "Right now, I feel like my role is to be there when they need support." Grassano acknowledged.
"From the beginning, I knew I was going to make a big jump from high school to this league. I don't think I went in with any expectations for the league and level of play. I just went in and adjusted to the speed of the game and pushed myself to play at my best."
Grassano continues a common theme throughout the roster, excitement over the new coaching staff and the high level of play they can bring out of this roster.
"I am looking forward to this year because this new coaching staff will be able to bring in new ideas and things that can help our team play to our full potential." Grassano said. "As far as my own development, I hope to learn a lot from them so that I can show them what I can do."
He knows that despite being on the roster for a season, he is still a very young player with a lot to learn, and is looking forward to doing that under the new staff. "No matter at what level you play at, I believe that there's always room to grow and to learn." Grassano stated.
"I'm thankful for these new coaches and their level of experience because I will be able to learn a lot from them. When it comes time, I'm ready at any moment to go out there and give it my best for my team and I think I showed that in my debut last year."