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It’s in the blood for 67’s sophomore Graovac

As it turns out, all that commotion in the lower bowl of Section 22 at the Rona Centre at 5:26 of the third period last Sunday afternoon during the Ottawa 67’s game was really nothing serious at all.

It was merely just Tyler Graovac’s parents grappling over a 67’s cap, his mother Kelly trying to wrestle the new hat free of his father Tommy so she could throw it on the ice to celebrate their son’s first Ontario Hockey League hat trick.

Tommy, the former goalie, and not a bad one at that, wound up making the save of the game and the hat is safely at home in Brampton signed: “To Dad, first hat trick, 67’s 7, Mississauga 2”

“We walked by the 67’s souvenir booth before the game and I saw the new design of a hat and said I’d really love it so I bought it,” said Graovac, the elder. “Then Tyler scores his third and my wife is reaching in the bag to get it and throw it and I’m going, ‘No, no, no,’ and she’s saying ‘C’mon, let’s throw it.’

“All I can say is now I’m telling all the other (67’s) parents to buy a hat.”

The hat just might be magic because the younger Graovac, at 17, has already eclipsed his goal total for all of his rookie season with this season only two weeks old.

Heading into tonight’s contest with the Plymouth Whalers, the third-line centre has three goals and four points in four games after an injury-shortened 2009-10 season, where, in limited ice time, he managed just two goals and seven points in 52 games.

Maybe not so coincidently, the hat trick also came on the heels of a little one-on-one session with his dad after what his dad saw as a less-than-inspiring effort at practice Saturday.

“That’s dad. He has always looked out for my best interests. He never bashes me. He’s just always someone I can lean on,” said Graovac, a third-round pick in 2009. “He told me I had to bend my knees and be more on the puck and that the way you warm up is the way you play. It’s all stuff he’s mentioned before but …”

Graovac, the offspring, has to believe because Graovac, the elder, is not just another hockey dad giving his kid advice on something he knows nothing about.

Tommy Graovac had a junior career kids can only dream about, winning back-to-back Memorial Cups in three seasons as a goaltender with the star-studded Cornwall Royals teams of the late-1970s and early ’80s with teammates such as Doug Gilmour, Scott Arniel, Dan Daoust, Marc Crawford and Dale Hawerchuk. He won in 1980 in Brandon, Man., and again the following year in Windsor, Ont., the final season of Cornwall playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League while drafting Ontario kids.

Graovac also earned a third ring in Cornwall, marrying his high school sweetheart at St. Lawrence High, the former Kelly O’Neill. And, as it works out, 30 years later, his in-laws Evelyn and Pat easily make the trip in most Fridays to proudly watch their grandson play and it’s a family reunion of sorts almost every week.

The father and son have much in common.

As proud as the dad is of having his boy reach the same level of hockey he did, his son is equally proud of his dad’s championship rings, and of the colourful Cornwall jerseys with the stars across the chest that found their way to Brampton.

Tyler and his friends have laughed about the old brown leather pads with gloves that never offered much in the way of protection, and at the pictures of his dad with those old-time masks and ones without the mask, displaying the big head of hair.

And the kid almost followed his father into net, in just about the same fashion his dad did against his grandfather’s wishes 35 years previous.

Tommy was an aspiring bantam in Brampton when one goalie took ill and another got hurt and the coach asked for a volunteer. He decided to go against his dad’s best advice.

“Goaltending kind of fell upon me,” said Tommy, who took it up at 14. “The coach asked and a friend of my dad’s had equipment and it was old stuff, but I said I’d love to do it and we beat Guelph 1-0 my first game,” Tommy Graovac said. “Then they asked me to play nets the next year and my dad was really upset, wondering why I wanted to play goal the rest of my career.

“The same thing almost happened with Tyler. Brampton (atoms) had just one goalie and the coach said he had some borderline players and he needed another goalie. Tyler threw his hand up and I grabbed it and said, ‘Oh no you don’t.’ He was a really good skater and I told him he just needed to keep developing.”
© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

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