For the past three seasons, Liam Grande skated for the Cobourg Cougars of the OJHL, overlapping with Princeton sophomore Alex Riche. While Grande only appeared in 27 games last season, he averaged over a point per game and recorded 28 points in 27 games. He netted a career-high 59 points last season and finished his career with 126 points.
Eye On The Tigers spoke with Grande to see what the incoming freshman had to say:
Why did you choose Princeton University?
I chose Princeton University because it was the best fit for me both academically and from a hockey perspective. The academic side of what Princeton has to offer is diverse and impressive. When I visited the campus it was awesome, everything from the grounds to the arena. The hockey program most suited me in terms of coaching and an ability to take my game to the next level.
What are you most looking forward to?
I am most looking forward to starting my university career. I graduated from high school two years ago and have since been playing junior hockey and working so I’m really excited to get back into the classroom and to get on the ice.
When did you get into hockey? What’s your earliest memory?
I started into hockey when I was about four or five years old but I have been skating since age three. My earliest memory of hockey is playing for the San Jose Sharks in my first year of house league in my home town. From the first time I stepped onto the ice with my hockey stick, I knew I would love the game of hockey. I have never looked back!
What NHL team did you grow up rooting for and why?
I grew up rooting for the Toronto Maple Leafs for two reasons. First, both my parents loved the Leafs, as well as my grandparents on both sides. I come from a long line of staunch Maple Leafs supporters and growing up that was the only team on the T.V. Saturday night. Secondly, my favourite hockey player of all was Mats Sundin, who was of course captain.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in hockey?
The biggest challenge I have faced in hockey is dealing with injury that comes hand in hand with playing the game at a high level of intensity. Hockey is a rough sport and undoubtably has gotten rougher as I have moved through more demanding and talented leagues. Dealing with injury from the sideline can be challenging and frustrating, but overcoming these challenges makes you stronger as a hockey player and as a person. Keeping strong and healthy and motivated is at the centre of my game.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen when playing hockey?
The strangest thing I ever saw while playing hockey was when I was very young with my hockey team in Ottawa for a tournament. We were playing in the quarterfinals and were in the second period when the fire alarm in the building went off. We were all forced outside of the arena and the game was delayed. Ottawa had just had a major ice storm and the parking lot and surrounding grounds were a sheet of ice. We were all in our hockey equipment and skates so we started skating outside for fun. Eventually we were allowed to go back inside to continue to play but the sprinkler system had gone off over the ice surface and had frozen over. In our opponent’s end there was a massive hill of ice right in front of their goalie’s net and it took the arena staff an hour to chip away the ice and prep the surface. From start to finish that game must have lasted 4 hours – the longest game I have ever played. I don’t even remember the final score – I just remember what a crazy afternoon hockey game that was!!!
Who’s the most influential person in your hockey career?
Most influential person in my hockey career? My parents for sure. Neither of my parents played hockey but they both loved watching the game (big Leafs fans remember). Right from an early age they put me in power skating and skill development programs. It hasn’t stopped. They continue to be my biggest supporters in every aspect of my life. The amount of time and money they have invested in not just me but also my two brothers is crazy. They are, hands down, the most influential people in my hockey career. I wouldn’t be were I am now without them.
What’s the most exciting experience you’ve ever had?
From an early age my life has revolved around hockey and school so it makes sense that one of the greatest experiences I’ve had would be a hockey one. In my midget year we went to the OHF’s (provincial championships) and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Even though we lost in overtime in the finals, it was a great journey for me personally and for a great group of young men who skated beside me. The road getting there was tough. We had a really close team and supportive coaches and parents. Getting the opportunity to play for a provincial championship with all the pressure and excitement was a memorable experience.
What do you plan on majoring in/what are your academic interests?
My academic interests are math, finance and science. Right now my plan is to major in economics. There is so much offered at Princeton that I hope to seek out other options as well. The plan is to take advantage of all the school has to offer.
What do you hope your legacy at Princeton University will be?
To win a national championship is the goal. I want to leave Princeton with the jersey in a better place than when I got there.