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Rocco Grimaldi taking things "one step at a time" heading into 2015-16 season

by Mike Lewis / Florida Panthers

With a serving size of seven games last season for the Florida Panthers, F Rocco Grimaldi is determined spend a bit more time in South Florida in 2015-16. Notching his first career goal in his last game of NHL-action last season, Grimaldi spent the majority of the 2014-15 season playing for the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL. Posting 42 points (14-28—42) in 64 games for San Antonio, Grimaldi had a solid rookie campaign, finishing fourth in goals and fifth in points on the Rampage. recently caught up with the Rossmoor, CA native following an informal skate at Florida Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs.

Being from California, playing in Florida, playing in San Antonio last season, what’s it like to be a player from a non-traditional market and playing pro in a non-traditional market? Does it motivate you at all?

RG: Yeah, it’s actually weird because I was thinking of that yesterday. I was thinking about the places I’ve played and thought, it’s kind of weird I’ve played in three of the sunshiney states. It’s great, the fans we had in San Antonio were really great to us.

Obviously [in Florida] we’re trying to build a good tradition here . I think we’re on the uprise from where we’ve been at. We’ve gone through tough times but I think we’re going to start rising. I think it’s going to be great with the core that we have. For me, obviously, I’m looking to make a difference this year and hoping to make the team first and make a difference here to help this community in whatever way that we can off of the ice as well. That will be huge for us.

A first year pro last season, what did you learn and what did you take into the offseason with that experience?

RG: I learned a lot about what it means to be a real pro. I try to be a professional every time I’m at the rink or out in public, wherever I am. I learned a little more about what that means to be a true pro, so I’ve been trying to give it a little more this summer in terms of my training. On-ice and off-ice I’ve been trying to give the extra and basically get myself as prepared as I can. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is the mental preparation that it takes. Last year I was physically prepared, but I think sometimes mentally I might have been a little...I don’t know if the word is intimidated or lack of confidence or what, but this year I feel a lot more confident, I feel mentally prepared. I know the work I’ve put in and I’m ready to showcase it this year.

Is that most of what you’ve worked on this offseason? The mental side of the game?

RG: Well obviously I worked physically, getting myself in the best shape ever and worked on my skills on the ice. I’ve been working with a psychologist all summer to get myself ready mentally. I think last year I was there physically, I was in good shape. I could do good things with and without the puck, but I think mentally was the thing that kind of held me back a bit. Not being as confident as I should be in my game and what I do on the ice. I think this year will be a whole new me. I feel a lot better with the little things. If it was going through a scoring slump, my head would be down thinking, “why can’t I score? Am I ever going to score again?” everyone goes through it at times. I don’t even want to go through that mental slide. Even if it is a scoring drought or what not I want to be able to be mentally prepared for the next game, thinking I know how to score, I know how to do this or that, whatever it might be and go out and play my game.

Dale Tallon has mentioned wanting to have a faster, younger team this season, does that push you that much more heading into camp?

RG: Absolutely, it’s great to hear he wants a young team. He wants guys that are ready come camp time. I know there are spots available, I want to be able to take one of those. But I don’t want to just take one, sit there and do nothing with it, I want to excel in whatever role that’s asked of me. I have to go into rookie camp ready to go. I know I’m ready, I know I’m prepared. I have to first do my thing there and not focus on main camp, preseason or any of that. I need to take it one step at a time and I feel that I’m ready to do that.

What do you do off of the ice to kind of unwind and step away from the game?

RG: I’m one actually that keeps to myself a lot, which is funny because I’m pretty outgoing around people, but when it’s time to go home, I don’t mind sitting there reading a book or watching a TV show or whatever. I can do whatever, whatever’s up for the day. Someone says “let’s go do something” “sure why not?” I’ve gotten a lot better at that, I used to hate going places, doing things. I’d be tired and wouldn’t want to do it. I’ve grown in that. My friends back in California can attest to that. I would kind of be a homebody and not do anything after the workout but now my buddy was taking me on hikes and stuff so I guess I’ve changed a little bit.

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