The Intimidation Factor
Since the first hockey game was played in the late 1800s, the sport has developed a reputation as a rough and tumble kind of game. There is no shortage of players with missing teeth and a hockey game without a fight is like an auto race without a crash.
And while some fans come to watch the soft as velvet hands of Cal O’Reilly or the effortless skating of Mike Santorelli there are those that also come for the physicality provided by Triston Grant; but there is more to a tough guys’ game than throwing knuckles and body checks, a concept that the Admirals left wing is all too familiar with.
“Growing up, I have always been a physical player and when you play a physical game, you hit other team’s players and soon enough the other team’s tough guys are coming after you,” said Triston. “I think it’s just a matter of sticking up for myself. I obviously would rather score 50 goals than have 50 fights but everybody has their role on the team and that’s what mine is.”
While Triston’s physical play has been the foundation of his game, it is more than an individual asset. His physicality helps open up space for his teammates and turns a physical game into more of a mental game.
“If you get in their head and they can give away the puck to your teammate, that not only benefits me but my teammates as well,” said Triston. “I feel I do a pretty good job of addressing that I am out there on the ice so the other team might be a little nervous or a little more careful out there.”
But with physical play comes time in the penalty box.
“I definitely sit in the penalty box by myself more than I would like to but that’s part of the game,” said Triston. “You play physical and you are going to get calls against your and I obviously have built a reputation. The refs know who I am and they definitely keep a close eye on the more physical players.”
This past season, Triston played more of a shut-down role against other teams top lines and had to find ways to separate himself from the other tough guys. He doesn’t put up a lot of points so he turned to his size to help his game.
“I am good on the forecheck, I can retrieve pucks and get in the dirty areas and I think I am definitely an important player. There is more to my game than throwing knuckles here and there and throwing body checks.”
But fighting is part of the game that cannot be avoided. According to Triston, there is a code to fighting that is like a book of unwritten do’s and don’ts.
“I don’t think there are a lot of guys who go out just for the sake of fighting. Its obviously one of the most entertaining parts of a hockey game but you leave it on the ice,” said Triston. “It’s part of the game. He’s doing his job and I’m doing mine.”
Having a reputation as a fighter requires not only strength but also endurance. Triston lifts weights on a regular basis and has taken boxing lessons to improve upper body strength. Boxing helps develop a player’s technique and since it requires punching for an extended period of time, it helps players build immunity to getting tired during fights.
While Triston has an intimidating look and certainly plays a physical game, he has an “alter ego” off the ice.
“It’s like a Jekyll and Hyde relationship. I would try to intimidate you on the ice with my physical play but off the ice I am a pretty mellow guy,” said Triston. “I think that is the story with a lot of the tough guys in the league.”
But right now he is more focused on improving his hockey skills than improving his punching technique. Although he has played in several NHL games, he has yet to make the jump to league that is comprised of the best of the best. Triston recognizes that everybody’s game matures at a different rate but believes that when the opportunity to play for Nashville full time arises, he will be ready to answer the call.
“I would like to get some games up in Nashville, you know, that’s number one,” said Triston. “I want to make sure I am getting better everyday. I haven’t really set goals stats wise but as long as I am a better player at the end of the season than I was going in, I believe I’ve accomplished something.”
After re-signing with the Predators for another year, Triston may get his big break this season. His focus is on getting in peak skating condition in time to take the ice and just wants to come out better than he came in.
“It is important to come into camp in shape so you can earn the respect of your teammates and show that you are committed to getting better and committed to the team,” said Triston. “I am just going to play my physical role and hopefully my game evolves from there.”