Photo: Portland Winterhawks
BY JACK LeGWIN
Jake Gricius, a Colorado Springs, Col. native, committed to play college hockey early, but a turning of the fortunes helped him to achieve his goal.
“Two summers ago, I had verbally committed to the Wenatchee Wild in the BCHL,” Gricius told BTS Sports. “I was set to go there for college, but there was a regional showcase at Colorado College, and Mike Johnston and Matt Bardley were there. I randomly got a call from my agent, and got to meet them. They told me a lot about Portland Winterhawks program, and basically offered me a spot on the team. After that I thought about it, called them and told them I was ready to go. If I went to the WHL, I was only going to go to Portland. The opportunity came up and I wasn’t going to pass it up.”
Gricius explained that the ability of the Winterhawks program to help players prepare for the NHL was the deciding factor in his decision.
“When they offered me, I was really 50-50,” Gricius said. “But you’re mapping out your future in your head. It kept me up at night. At the end of the day though, I knew Portland’s rep of getting guys where they want to go, and that was the best choice to get me where I wanted to be which was in the NHL.”
As a part of an elite team in Portland, Gricius expressed his admiration for his teammates’ abilities to push him every day in practice, as well as show him the ropes on what this year would be like.
“I’m surrounded here by players like Cody Glass, Henri Jokiharju, Kieffer Bellows, and Skyler McKenzie,” Gricius said. “You want to mirror yourself after what they do. I lived last year with Cody, so I got to see what he went through last year. I saw what the pressure was like and everything that went into it. I just try to be the best that I can and prove that I deserve to be drafted.”
Growing up, Gricius said his passion for hockey was not something that went unnoticed by his family.
“Colorado College is where I started watching hockey and where I fell in love with the sport,” Gricius said. “My parents bought me a tyke hockey stick that I never put down. My mom knew she had to put me in hockey, otherwise she felt like she would be disappointing me. I ultimately went to the Colorado Thunderbirds, so it was a great experience growing up.”
Gricius continued on to express how going to college games nearby fueled his love for the game.
“I liked the Avalanche from an NHL perspective for sure but the Colorado College Tigers got me to love the sport. That’s who I started watching. We couldn’t go to Denver all the time, and the Tigers were so close to home.”
When asked about his childhood and the relationships he made through the game of hockey, Gricius pointed to the friendly competition he has with his former teammates.
“I have friendships that I made in squirts that I’ll have for the rest of my life,” Gricius said. “After that, we all started separating, going to the Colorado Rampage and the Thunderbirds, stuff like that. It became a thing of who’s going to be better and get bragging rights.”
A likely player to get drafted in this summer’s NHL Draft’s later rounds, Gricius said that getting drafted would mean his hard work has paid off.
“It would mean everything to me,” Gricius said. “It’s all I’ve ever dreamed about as a kid. It would mean so much to me and my family. The hard work and the dedication, it would mean the world to me.”
Taking the leap isn’t something that is easy, but Gricius has made it pay off, and is one step closer to his ultimate goal: playing in the NHL.
Gricius has 12 goals and 4 assists through 47 games for the Winterhawks program.