A successful hockey player brings many components to the ice: speed, strength, and endurance to name just a few. Though often overlooked, perhaps the most pivotal component of all is a passion for the game and the work it takes to succeed in a professional arena. Binghamton Senators defenseman Eric Gryba brings just that to the AHL; it’s easy to see why this 24-year-old Saskatchewan native has been a solid line of defence for the past three years. With a genuine personality, it’s clear that Gryba is appreciative of those that surround him on and off the ice.
A late addition to the 2012-13 AHL All-Star roster, Gryba will be taking the place of teammate Andre Benoit, who is currently playing in the NHL.
“Its an honor, it’ll be a good experience I’m sure,” said Gryba of his All-Star bid. “It’s nice to be able to take Benoit’s spot on the roster, he’s a great player and it shows, as he’s in the NHL right now.”
With an exciting weekend ahead, Gryba will join other AHL elite in an east versus west match up on Monday. Prior to Monday’s game, fans will have the opportunity to see possibly the most entertaining moments of the weekend during the skills competition held Sunday.
”I sure hope they put me in hardest shot, I don’t want to do puck handling,” laughs Gryba. “My shot’s gonna be harder than my hands are.”
As a versatile, physical defenseman, it’s no surprise that Gryba has reached this point in his career. A product of a collegiate powerhouse, Gryba won a national championship with Boston University during the 2008-09 season. While the transition from college to professional play can be tricky, it proved successful for the 6’3″ Canadian. The transition and each individual season can hold lasting memories for a player, one memory in particular came during his first professional season.
“Winning the Calder Cup has been the highlight of my career so far,” said Gryba. “We had a great season my first year, I was able to contribute and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.”
As with any line you skate, success stems from hard work and for most professional hockey players it begins at a young age. Getting a feel for the ice around the age of 3, Gryba began lacing the skates and playing the game by the time he was 5-years old. While fond memories surround anyone with a love for the game, other memories stick with a player as well.
“Growing up playing weekend tournaments and games at small town Saskatchewan rinks, you’ve never been quite so cold,” said Gryba. “Your parents have to come during intermission and rub your toes to get back the feeling,” he continued. “It makes Saskatchewan kids a little bit tougher than the rest.”
While that Saskatchewan toughness earned as a child computes to the ice, he lends a different attitude to the locker room.
”I’m somewhat of a loud voice in the locker room,” he laughs. ”Between pranks and little jokes- it keeps the atmosphere light.”
Being a prankster is just one component that characterizes his off-ice demeanor and earned him a fan base in Binghamton. Another could be the respect he garners for his family.
“My family has always been extremely supportive in everything I’ve done,” he said. ”They’ve been my biggest supporters and toughest critics.”
Enduring criticism is all part of the game, as a player you skate for a dream that may never come, but for the lucky few it does. Gryba thoughtfully shares advice given to him long ago.
“Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do something,” he continued. “If you think you can do it and you work hard, well it’d be a shame if you stopped short.”
Obviously heeding his own advice, Gryba’s All-Star bid is just an exciting moment of proof that hard work both on and off the ice proves successful in building a lasting professional hockey career.