Freshmen 10: UND has rookies from all over mapGRAND FORKS — The recruiting class for the University of North Dakota hockey team is unlike any other the programs has had. It has players from the suburban areas of Phoenix, Los Angeles, Oakland, Baltimore and St. Louis.
By: Brad Schlossman, The Dickinson Press
GRAND FORKS — The recruiting class for the University of North Dakota hockey team is unlike any other the programs has had. It has players from the suburban areas of Phoenix, Los Angeles, Oakland, Baltimore and St. Louis.
”That is the new world of hockey,” said UND coach Dave Hakstol, whose team opens the season Friday at home against Air Force. “There are so many kids growing up in nontraditional hockey areas that are starting to play the game. I think it’s a product of the NHL spreading out its footprint. It’s also a product and a statement of how great the game is. It’s a fun game for kids to play.
”Obviously, you’re seeing a lot of new areas becoming hockey hot beds.”
California is one of those areas.
UND’s freshman class includes two from the Golden State — defenseman Dan Senkbell and Rocco Grimaldi. They are the only the second and third Sioux players ever to come from California. The first was Brett Hextal, who just signed a pro contract after three years at UND.
UND has never before had a player from Arizona, Maryland or Missouri.
”It’s great to see guys from other places and guys from California as well like Rocco,” said Senkbell, who is from Fremont. “It’s cool to see that’s expanding. I think the NHL expanding plays a big part in it. The Sharks are becoming really big in San Jose. Every game is packed and has a big following. That leads to other people wanting to play hockey.”
UND’s West Coast players all got their starts by watching others.
Colten St. Clair, a native of Gilbert, Ariz., went to his sister’s birthday party, which involved some skating. He fell in love right away. Grimaldi, of Rossmoor, Calif., went to watch his older sister’s friend play, and he was immediately curious. Senkbell’s sister was a figure skater and he would always be at the rink Saturday mornings. He figured he would try it out.
”I liked it instantly and it started to grow on me,” he said.
All five nontradtional hockey area recruits play near an NHL team. St. Clair is down the road from the Phoenix Coyotes, Grimaldi is close to the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, Parks is near the St. Louis Blues and Panzarella has the Washington Capitals nearby.
”Hockey isn’t as big in California as other places in the U.S.,” Senkbell said. “When I was playing juniors and stuff, you’d get the California surfer boy reputation. But it’s becoming a bigger sport out there.”
Schlossman is a sports reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.