NORFOLK, VA – Norfolk Admirals forward, Grant Besse, originally wanted to play goalie when he first started playing minor league hockey in Minnesota. He admired the way the pads looked, but after letting in 9 goals his first game the young Besse changed positions. It’s a change that he’ll never regret as he sets out on his first full pro season.
After a year in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers, Besse was recruited by the University of Wisconsin, one of the best college hockey programs in the nation. The 23-year-old talked about why he become a Badger, “It’s a pretty historic hockey program. With the National Championships and a lot of the high caliber players that have come out of there.The campus is unbelievable and it’s a really great school so all that put together made a pretty easy decision for me.”
During his time as a Badger, Grant totaled 97 points over four seasons. His senior year he had a chance to learn from a former NHL Head Coach, Tony Granato, when Granato was named Wisconsin’s head coach prior to the start of the 2016-17 season. The left-handed shot shared what he took away from Granato’s tutelage, “Tony came from coaching in the NHL. He brought little things that he taught players and learned from guys like Coaching Crosby in Pittsburgh and Datsyuk in Detroit. Just the knowledge that he brought I thought really helped me.”
For his junior and senior seasons, he was tabbed to be a leader undertaking the role as assistant captain. Being in a leadership role came naturally for Grant, “It was pretty easy to be honest. We had a great group of guys and a great leadership core. It wasn’t too difficult. Being an Assistant Captain of a prestigious school like Wisconsin it’s an honor,” said the Minnesota native.
Grant was originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the fifth round in 2013, but never signed. This didn’t stop him from soaking in knowledge by attending rookie development camps in the summer. Besse looked back at his past development camps noting, “You see a lot of good players and meet a lot of new guys so it’s a different experience for me. You have guys coming in who played pro and in the CHL. It’s just a big mesh of players that you can learn a lot from.”
Prior to signing a contract with Norfolk, Besse was in AHL training camp with the San Diego Gulls, the top parent club of the Anaheim Ducks. After not making the cut, Besse’s agent reached out to Paul Krepelka, Norfolk’s Director of Player Personnel, and within a few hours, Besse made the decision to start his pro hockey career with the Admirals.
Besse has 9 points in 10 games played with Norfolk so far this season, he sees the difference between college and pro saying, “Guys are bigger and stronger than in college. You’re playing against men out there a lot of the time. In college, the oldest guy you played against are either 23 or 24. Now you’re playing guys who are 27, 28 or 29. Just the experience of guys that have been in the league for a little while and played in the American League or maybe even higher is daunting. It’s tough to play against experienced guys. Then again the experienced guys on your team can help you become a better player.”
As a college hockey player, a majority of your time is structured. Once you turn pro, younger guys find that they have a lot more free time on their hands. Besse and his younger teammates try to keep busy by exploring the Norfolk and Virginia Beach area, “We try to stay as busy as we can. Looking around the city of Norfolk. Trying to find things to do rather it’s Top Golf or we went to the beach yesterday and played Spike Ball. We try and find stuff to do to keep ourselves busy, but we’re at the rink for a big chunk of the day so it’s not too bad.,” said Besse who also says he’s the best guy at Top Golf out of the group that attended a recent outing to Top Golf.
Under Coach Robbie Ftorek’s tutelage and his natural ability to score goals, Grant Besse has all the ingredients to have a rookie season to remember.
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