What seemed like a normal San Antonio Rampage gameday for Rocco Grimaldi quickly hit a plot twist by the time the third period started.
In Tuesday’s matinee game against the Oklahoma City Barons, Grimaldi was informed that he would be leaving the game early, boarding a plane to Los Angeles and suiting up for the Panthers in their matchup against the Kings that night.
“I didn’t even know it was possible to happen”, said Grimaldi about being pulled out of an AHL game to play one in the NHL.
“Obviously I was excited but I wanted to finish the (San Antonio) game. It was a close game, I’m glad our guys got the win, but right when they told me I was going I had to focusing on this game and getting my body ready to go. I was playing for two periods, but I had to get my mentally ready and my body was going to follow suit.”
The 21-year old forward grew up in Rossmoor, California, a city just south of Los Angeles, so the game was somewhat of a homecoming for Grimaldi.
“It was special obviously,” said Grimaldi about playing in his hometown.
“This was one of the [games] on the calendar I really wanted to play in. Obviously I didn’t expect to. Going into this morning I was getting ready for OKC. Getting pulled off after the second period and told I was coming home, I was excited and glad that some family and friends could come out.”
Jumping into the lineup abruptly, the 5’6” forward had a few scoring chances and played solidly at both ends of the ice recording 10:36 TOI. Playing two games in one day, let alone two different leagues in one day is something that most hockey players hadn’t done since their days playing peewee hockey.
“I felt pretty good. All the years of roller hockey playing with two teams in two tournaments a day really helped,” joked Grimaldi.
One of the people at those roller hockey tournaments was Grimaldi’s mother, who happened to be in San Antonio watching her son play the Barons before she jumped on a plane to join Rocco for his game in LA. The hectic travel of the day had the Grimaldis trying to beat the clock to make it to the Staples Center and join the Panthers.
“It was different,” said Grimaldi with a smile. “I had to rush out of the rink while the game was still going on. Drive back to my place, pack my bags quick, my mom was with me too so we had to grab her stuff, went to the airport, the flight was delayed by a half an hour, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.”
Playing in two cities, two different time zones, for two different teams in one day, Grimaldi has been one of the most talked about players in both the NHL and AHL. There is one thing that’s for sure, Grimaldi’s fifth career game was certainly one he will never forget.