JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- Roger Grillo knows a thing or two about developing young hockey players into NHL stars.
Grillo, who has coached high school and college hockey for more than 20 years, was the coach at Brown University from 1997-2009 and an assistant with Vermont from 1990-97. During his time at Vermont he coached two future Stanley Cup winners in forward Martin St. Louis and goalie Tim Thomas.
"Marty and Tim were both a real treat and pleasure to coach," said Grillo, a regional manager for the American Development Model with USA Hockey who was at Cambria County War Memorial Arena here Sunday to run a clinic for kids. "Both were very high-end, talented players who helped those teams at Vermont have a ton of success. To see both of them do what they did in NHL was a real thrill."
Johnstown won the title of Kraft Hockeyville USA, and in addition to hosting a preseason game Tuesday between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and getting $150,000 to use on arena upgrades, Grillo, along with former NHL players Jason Woolley and Ryan Vandenbussche and others from USA Hockey, led a clinic for kids at the War Memorial.
"I think the most important thing, we're all really passionate about the sport," Grillo said. "To see the kids have fun and enjoy the game, build passion for the game, is really important. To have two former NHL players, two former Penguins here … they've been fantastic. We've been in Johnstown for two days and had a wonderful experience. The local youth hockey people have been really gracious. The kids have been unbelievable."
The outreach programs like the one Sunday in Johnstown help kids who dream of playing in the NHL.
"You just don't know," Grillo said. "You try to create an environment that allows for building passion and developing skills. The program that we are partners with the NHL, the American Development Model, is really stressing those two things. Having fun and building a base of quality skills."
Grillo has been all around the United States running clinics and said he's seen the passion of the town since arriving in Johnstown during the weekend.
"The city has a real buzz around the town," Grillo said. "The events we had [Saturday], the events we have [Sunday], and obviously the big game coming up on Tuesday. There's a lot of excitement about it and I think it's awesome. It was a pleasure to be a part of for sure."