Tagged: Eric Gryba

Gryba the Goliath

This is something I wrote for my school newspaper. I can extend this for a journalism class I’m taking, so anybody have any suggestions of what they would want to see more of or improve in this piece?
Gryba the Goliath
by Arielle Aronson

On Friday night at Agganis Arena, 21-year-old men’s hockey senior Eric Gryba scored his third collegiate goal.

A little more than four minutes into the second period, sophomore
forward Corey Trivino led a rush up the right side and into the zone
before passing to sophomore forward Vinny Saponari at the left faceoff
dot. Gryba, eschewing his normal place on the blue line, crept
unnoticed to the right doorstep of the goal. Saponari saw Gryba and
fired a pass toward the defenseman, who tipped the puck in for Boston
University’s first goal of the game, en route to a 3-3 tie against the
University of Vermont.

The goal was Gryba’s first on the season. As a defensive defenseman,
Gryba is a force on the ice, albeit not an offensive one. Gryba’s
checks often leave opponents crumpled at his feet like a heap of dirty
laundry. At 6-feet-4-inches and 220 pounds, Gryba is seven inches
taller and 50 pounds heavier than his defensive partner, sophomore
David Warsofsky.

“He definitely makes himself present out there,” Warsofsky said.

Gryba’s brutish play has earned him a spot in Dog Pound lore as a
caveman-like figure. When he scored, shouts of “Gryba score!” and
“Gryba goal!” resounded through section 118. 

Despite the persona created for Gryba by the Dog Pound, the defenseman
is more than just a bear-like defenseman. Off the ice, he acts just
like any other BU student, speaking with an ease reflective of his
affable yet strong-willed personality. This strong will served him well
in his youth.

Gryba grew up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the oldest of three children.
He began skating at three years old and was playing hockey by the time
he was five. At age 15, Gryba began playing triple-A midget hockey for
his local team, the Saskatoon Contacts.

In 2005, Gryba won his first national championship with the Contacts.
Gryba’s 40 points in 32 games that season, as well as his physical
play, attracted attention from colleges as well as Canada’s Western
Hockey League, a major junior hockey league. Playing in the WHL,
however, would have made Gryba ineligible for NCAA participation.

Gryba initially attempted to play in the British Columbia Hockey
League, even temporarily transferring guardianship to an aunt who lived
there, yet new rules prohibiting interprovincial transfers left Gryba
unable to play in the BCHL. At 17, Gryba had to make a tough decision
between playing major junior hockey and foregoing a collegiate career,
or playing in lower-level juniors in order to be able to go to college.

“Either way, I was going to get my education, whether I got it now or
later on.” Gryba said. “I thought I could play a year of juniors, which
is a little bit lower than playing in the WHL, but after that play at a
much higher level and get my education at the same time.”

“He wanted to go to university and he was pretty stubborn about it,” BU
coach Jack Parker said. “It was, ‘Are you people kidding me? You aren’t
going to go let me play in the BCHL? Kids have done that for 50 years,
and you’ve come up with this new rule to keep me from playing college
hockey?’ So he left.”

BU discovered Gryba while he was playing for the Green Bay Gamblers of
the United States Hockey League, a league from which the Terriers
recruit heavily. BU asked Gryba to commit for the next fall. Because of
the sports-centered nature of Boston, his comfort on campus and the
level of the facilities at BU, Gryba turned down offers from many elite
programs in order to play under the tutelage of Parker.

Entering his freshman year, Gryba was far from the defensive stalwart
he would become at BU. Gryba was laying down big hits for BU, but he
was also spending a lot of time in the sin bin.

“He got a lot of stupid penalties,” Parker said. “He was being
physical, doing what we wanted, but he was playing over the edge. I
think it took him a while to figure out just where that edge was.”

Gryba also had to accept his role on a team where he was expected to be
more of a stay-at-home defenseman than an offensive presence. The days
of 40 points in 32 games were over.

“That’s a big part — accepting the role and running with it,” Gryba
said. “When I was in midgets, I wasn’t a stay-at-home defenseman. I was
a good defenseman, I was physical, but I played a lot more of the
offensive game, too. Starting in juniors and then here, the offensive
game became less and less and I started focusing more on the defensive
part of the game.”

By his junior year at BU, Gryba had made clear progress in taking
smarter penalties and playing a more solid defensive game. Gryba
finished 2008-09 with a plus-21 rating, the highest of his career.
Although he tallied no goals for the Terriers, Gryba registered six
assists and played in every game during the Terriers’ national
championship run.

BU’s victory over Miami in overtime to win the title ranks as Gryba’s favorite hockey memory.

“Winning the national championship is up there,” Gryba said. “The
parade was awesome, and that actually happened to fall on the day of my
birthday, so that was pretty cool. And then throwing out the first
pitch of the Red Sox game, that was a lot of fun.”

With departed co-captain Brian Strait headed for the Pittsburgh
Penguins organization, Gryba learned shortly before leaving for the
summer that Parker was making him and junior Nick Bonino assistant
captains.

“Once Shattenkirk was just the captain, I knew I was going to appoint
two assistants,” Parker said. “It was pretty easy to pick Gryba because
of his intensity and his enthusiasm. He’s a vocal guy that can offset
Shattenkirk, who’s kind of a John McCarthy-like captain — a quiet type
of guy who’s not going to be getting into guys’ faces in the locker
room. Gryba will do that for you.”

This season, in addition to his captain duties, the senior continues to
lead BU in big hits. Unfortunately for the Terriers, Gryba’s 2009
victims include teammates David Warsofsky, who was collateral in a
Gryba hit laid on an opponent, and freshman forward Alex Chiasson, whom
Gryba injured in practice. 

“I had a little string there of bad luck,” Gryba said of injuring his
teammates. “Obviously, I’m not out trying to hurt guys on the team, but
it comes with my game. Sometimes, things happen like that, and you just
pray it doesn’t happen again.”

Warsofsky does not blame his injury on Gryba, but he did acknowledge
that playing on the ice with Gryba can occasionally get dangerous.

“It’s pretty scary at times, not knowing what he’s going to do out
there,” Warsofsky said. “You have to be aware of where he is and then,
hopefully, when you do see him coming in for the big hits, you have to
get out of the way.”

Players sometimes try to stay away from Gryba in the locker room as
well. Before games, Gryba means business, but any other locker room
time is open season. Freshman defenseman Sean Escobedo learned that
lesson quickly when he threw soap on a freshly showered Gryba.

“He thinks he’s a real funny guy, throwing soap on me after I got out
of the shower,” Gryba said. “So I took a pair of his brand new shoes
and hid them in the ceiling. He’s looking around for it for a while,
and finally I said I’d give them back to him. I went up there and they
were gone.”

After a few days, Escobedo found the shoes, but Gryba was not yet finished with him.

“[Last Tuesday], he put a chocolate shake in Scooby’s shoes,” senior forward Luke Popko said.

At last check, Escobedo’s shoes were in the laundry.

When not stealing people’s shoes, Gryba is focusing on turning the struggling Terriers’ season around.

“We just keep preaching to the guys, keep working hard, keep doing the
right thing, keep having that effort game-in and game-out,” Gryba said.
“Things will start to click and we’ll start winning six or seven games
in a row. That, I feel, will happen for us.”

Until that point, however, it’s probably best that the Terriers keep
their bodies out of Gryba’s way on the ice and their shoes out of his
sight off it.

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