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Cam Grillo is proving an excellent defenseman in his first season as a member of the East Haven co-op boys’ ice hockey team. Cam is a senior at Old Saybrook High School. (Photo courtesy of Cam Grillo )
After playing hockey throughout his life, Cam Grillo suffered a concussion that kept him off the ice for his entire junior season. Instead of letting go of his hockey dreams, Cam made it his mission to return as a senior and is now a leader on defense for the East Haven co-op boys’ ice hockey team.
Cam, a senior at Old Saybrook, attended high school in his hometown as a freshman before repeating his freshman season at the Trinity-Pawling School in New York. Following his sophomore year, Cam transferred to the Salisbury School in upstate Connecticut.
Prior to his junior year, Cam suffered a concussion and was forced to miss his hockey season. Due to the effects of his injury, Cam had to sit in a dark room by himself and couldn’t even have his cell phone with him.
The good news is that Cam was able to make a complete recovery and start skating again during the summer before his senior year. Now, Cam is a starting defenseman in his first year with the East Haven co-op hockey squad.
“It was tough. Just sitting in a dark room by myself for a year. No phone,” Cam says. “I’ve always just loved being out on the ice. It was nice to get back out of the house and on the ice again, doing stuff and not just laying in bed all day. I was definitely a little rusty, and I had to get back into the swing of things. I got going pretty fast.”
The East Haven co-op feature athletes from East Haven, Old Saybrook, Morgan, Valley Regional, East Hampton, and Old Lyme. In his first season with the Yellowjackets, Cam is making new friends and forming connections with hockey players from several different towns.
“It’s really fun. I’m meeting all these new kids and getting to know all of them. That has been fun,” says Cam. “There’s kids coming from a bunch of schools. You get to meet kids that you wouldn’t normally.”
Head Coach Lou Pane has only been coaching Cam for a few weeks, but the senior defenseman has really impressed him in that short amount of time. Pane says that Cam is the top defenseman in the Southern Connecticut Conference and that the Yellowjackets are a better club when he’s out there.
“He is so gifted. When he first stepped on the ice, we didn’t know what to expect, but we heard some good things about him. When he stepped on the ice for the first time, the coaching staff was in awe,” Pane says of Cam. “He is that good. Everybody on the ice player- wise felt the same way. They were just in amazement. He’s so smooth. His ability to accelerate with the puck is incredible.”
Cam started playing hockey when he was only three years old by participating in youth clinics in Middletown. Shortly thereafter, he began competing with the Mid-Fairfield Rangers junior hockey team in Stamford. Cam’s father Brian and his grandfather Phil were both hockey players and proved instrumental in getting him involved in the sport.
“My dad always played it and my grandfather played it. I was just kind of thrown into it,” Cam says. “Every time I see my grandfather, he tells a story about how I would skate for 45 minutes, fall down, and get back up the whole time. After that, I learned to skate. It definitely helped starting at such a young age. I really loved the game and wanted to play, rather than being forced to.”
Coach Pane has been talking to coaches in the United States Hockey League (USHL)—the top junior ice hockey league sanctioned by USA Hockey—about Cam potentially joining the league after the senior graduates from Old Saybrook. Last year, Nick Capone, a former East Haven hockey player who played in the USHL, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL. Cam says that his goal is to play college hockey and potentially play his way into the NHL himself one day.
As he finishes out his senior season with the East Haven co-op team, Cam wants to become a better all-around player and do everything he can to help the Yellowjackets succeed. After losing a full season of hockey, Cam feels grateful to be back on the ice and doing what he loves.
“It’s who I am. It has kind of been my whole life up to this point. When I’m out there, I have a clear head. It’s like therapeutic for me,” says Cam. “It was tough thinking I was never going to play again.”