He began the year looking at his third straight full AHL campaign. He even played two games in the ECHL in 2004-05. Now Grant Stevenson is playing alongside one of the NHL’s top centermen and enjoying every minute of it.
On Nov. 22, 2005, Stevenson got the call of his life when he learned that he was to be in Calgary for the Sharks matchup with the Flames the next night. As the butterflies set in, the Spruce Grove, Alberta native was about to play his first career NHL game and in front of many friends and family in his home providence.
Just over a minute into the third period of the contest, Stevenson knotted the game at one, scoring on a rebound attempt in front of the net. He had successfully made a huge impact in his first game ever, something that Sharks fans will undoubtedly get accustomed to when watching him in San Jose.
“I didn’t sleep very much,” Stevenson joked. “It was pretty unbelievable. You always dream that day will come and it was great to be able to have that in front of my family and everything. It was a real special day for me.”
One specific family member of Stevenson’s was at that game that should be noted. Former NHL goaltender Glenn Hall is Stevenson’s grandfather. Grant grew up watching his grandfather play for the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks, but never recalls Hall putting any pressure on him to be a hockey player.
“He always told me just to have fun and enjoy it,” said Stevenson. “There was never any pressure from him. I think that helps out a lot when you’re that age, to learn to not take it so seriously and have fun, so it was great to have a guy like him to make sure I did that.”
And to think, with such great hockey genes, the young Stevenson almost gave up on the sport completely.
“When I was 13, I was playing lots of school sports like basketball,” he explained. “Things weren’t going great for me in hockey and I was struggling because of my size. I didn’t start growing until I was older so it was tougher for me. It crossed my mind that maybe it wasn’t for me, but I liked it too much to quit.”
It’s a good thing he didn’t quit because the small kid grew up at around the age of 17 and was able to hold his own on the ice. Stevenson attended Minnesota State – Mankato and starred in his sophomore season, posting 63 points (27 goals, 36 assists) in just 38 games for the Mavericks. The center caught the eye of Sharks executives who signed him as a free agent in April of 2003.
“College was a great experience,” Stevenson said. “It was a great time and our team had a great group of guys. My sophomore year we had some success and went to the national tournament. I was able to have a good year and sign with San Jose.”
In each of his first two season playing in the AHL for the Cleveland Barons, Stevenson tallied 39 points (13-26=39 in 2003-04, 14-25=39 in 2004-05). At the end of his first season in Cleveland, Stevenson was reunited with his former college linemate Shane Joseph.
“We played together for the end of my first year in Cleveland,” Stevenson said. “Last year we played together and it was fun to play with an old linemate from college. The new rules really tailor to his style of play so he should only get better.”
Time will only tell if Stevenson will reunite with Joseph for a third time, but for the time being, the rookie is set when it comes to linemates. Stevenson currently plays alongside Sharks captain Patrick Marleau
, something he has done since his first game with San Jose in November. The former center is now playing right wing on Marleau’s line, which has been the most consistent one in recent weeks. The thrill of playing with a guy the caliber of Marleau is something Stevenson doesn’t take for granted.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Stevenson said. “I’m just trying to take advantage of it and stick there on his line. He’s a great player and I just try to keep up with him, feed him the puck and keep him happy.”
Marleau also enjoys playing with Stevenson and likes what the rookie brings to the table.
“He’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Marleau said. “He works hard and he’s ready when he gets his chances. He plays with a lot of energy on the forecheck and when he gets the opportunity to shoot, he shoots it.”
In 16 NHL contests, Stevenson has registered 13 points, including six goals and one game-winning tally. The rookie does not take his time in the NHL for granted and is enjoying every single day.
“I’m not getting too comfortable in any way,” he said. “I’m still staying at the hotel. Nothing is ever given to you. Every game you have to go out and prove yourself, so I know I can’t take a game off because you’re only as good as your last game. It’s every night and that’s what it takes to win. Everyday I look forward to the next game and being able to create something and have fun.”
The Sharks will play host to the Colorado Avalanche tomorrow night at HP Pavilion at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion box office and all Ticketmaster locations. The game will air on FSN Bay Area and can be heard on the Sharks Radio Network and sjsharks.com.
OUT FOR TOMORROW
The Sharks will once again be without the services of defenseman Tom Preissing who is still suffering from the flu. Ryane Clowe
is also expected to miss the game due to an ankle injury.