NORFOLK, VA — In sports, you form bonds with teammates and over time those bonds grow and blossom. The bond that Grant Besse and Christian Horn of the Norfolk Admirals share has been growing ever since their time together at Benilde-St. Margaret’s one of the most recognizable schools for hockey in Minnesota.
Although they were close teammates, Horn admits it took awhile for them to recognize they could help the team more if they worked together rather than be each other’s competition.
“We were close, but we were each other’s competition. We both wanted to be number one. It took us until my junior year which was his sophomore year to realize that we could go a lot further working together. I think we mostly made that happen in high school. Looking back on it, it was a bunch of goals, a bunch of assists, a lot of wins and a lot of fun,” noted Horn.
Benilde-St. Margaret’s Head Coach, Ken Pauly saw the talent both Christian and Grant carried during their high school days saying,
“Christian Horn started our summer camp in seventh grade and one of my assistant coaches, Tom Klein, told me when he’s done he’s going to be the all-time leading scorer in the school’s history. Sure thing Christian was the all-time leading scorer. That lasted one year before Besse passed him up.” He went on to say, “That raw talent that offensive ability some of that stuff you can’t teach, they clearly had it.”
There was an accident that happened on December 30, 2011 that brought not only Horn and Besse closer, but brought the whole hockey community closer. Benilde-St. Margaret’s teammate, Jack Jablonski was hit from behind and was ultimately left paralyzed by the hit.
“When we found out that ‘Jabs’ was paralyzed we were all in the school chapel and I think that was a moment where him and I(Besse) and the captains, really came together and realized this is something way bigger than we are and we both dropped a little bit of our egos being in high school. I think we had a really strong moment with each other there and said, we don’t have a choice anymore, we have to go win this thing,” noted Horn on how the team banded together.
The “thing” Horn was referring to, was the Minnesota High School State Tournament. The tournament showcases the top High Schools in Minnesota and is played at the Xcel Energy Center, the home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. Both Horn and Besse showed their offensive abilities in that tournament. Horn played hero, netting a game-winning goal to send the Red Knights to the next round.
Besse also did his part in the final round by potting five goals, three which were short-handed, while Horn assisted on three of Besse’s markers fueling the Red Knights to victory, ultimately capturing the state title and writing a fairytale ending to the 2011-12 season.
“To me it’s all kind of a blur. You’re riding such an emotional high throughout that weekend, especially that championship game. I know what happened because I watched the video multiple times. Right after that it all blended together. I can’t remember to many details but we won and accomplished our goal,” said Besse.
Horn described the moments after the buzzer sounded at the Xcel Energy Center:
“We kind of looked at each other and couldn’t believe it happened. I remember wanting to be the first person on the ice and the first person to throw off my helmet. We have a picture, he’s right behind me. It wasn’t a feeling of having something lifted off your shoulders, it was just the feeling of you worked respectively for 15-years to try and do that as kids from Minnesota. We dream about doing that. Being able to accomplish one of the biggest dreams you have as a kid right there. There was so much emotion going through my body I teared up hugging my coach.”
One thing that Coach Pauly remembers about that 2011-12 championship season is how the team matured and took all the national media attention in stride.
“The way they responded with what happened with Jabby, in terms of the media crush it was very intensive. I’ll never see anything like it again. The further I get away from it I think of the poise, the confidence and the maturity,” said Pauly who went on to talk about Horn’s leadership ability. “There’s this interview when Christian scored the game winning goal in the first round of the state tournament. The interview that he did, I was just amazed at how mature he was in that interview.”
After college, both players turned pro. The opportunity presented itself for Horn to reunite with Besse in December. The duo along with Brodie Dupont have been one of Admirals head coach Robbie Ftorek’s go-to lines. Besse talked about how Horn makes his line tick,
“He sees the ice pretty well. He gets the loose pucks and passes and shoots,” the ECHL All-Star said. “More often than not when he’s in the scoring area he’ll put it away. And then when you’re in the scoring area he’s got the ability to find you.”
During the summer Benilde-St. Margaret’s puts on a hockey camp and the duo shows up to help coach. The young men who attend the camp look up to them giving them local superstar status as Coach Pauly said, “Both Horn and Besse coached our summer teams this year up in Duluth. I took them out to dinner after the game and they were both complaining, I feel so bad I want to play everybody and you feel bad when you don’t call a kid’s number.”
Besides rolling lines at hockey camp, Horn and Besse also tighten their bond away from the rink. Horn shared a funny story about Besse on the golf course, “We were golfing one summer with a couple of buddies of ours. We were out on the sixth hole and there was a lake and we were trying to hit the ball in the air like a baseball and hit it as far as we could into the lake. My buddy threw one up, swung at it and hit his shaft and the driver head went like 75 yards into the lake. I’ve never seen Grant roll over, crying and laughing on the ground before.”
Besse also shared a funny memory, “So Horn got a brand new cabin this summer and it’s up on the lake in Minnesota. There’s a huge sandbar out there where you can go hang out on it. We had a pontoon out there and two brand new jet skis. He decided to leave and bring more people to the pontoon and the sandbar. He takes a life jacket off the boat and starts the jet ski. Doesn’t realize that life jacket has the other jet ski key on it and ends up losing it. So that’s one jet ski dead. Brings the people back, decides to ram the thing onto the sandbar. Sucks rocks into the jet. So that jet ski doesn’t work. So he managed to break two jet skis in a matter of 15 minutes.”
Off the ice, the two grow closer, but on the ice is where you can see the bond flourish. Norfolk can use their bond to their advantage as they’re sights are still on a Kelly Cup playoff berth. Besse and Horn can help get Norfolk there with their offensive abilities and their unique bond.