Brandon Grandinetti doesn’t believe in taking time-outs.
The third-year defenceman for the Soo Thunderbirds – and second-year biology major at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. – is the epitome of the
student-athlete, equal emphasis on both sides of the equation.
After another season in which he played meaningful games into May, Grandinetti is being recognized for what he accomplished off the ice as the winner of
the 2016 RBC National Junior A Scholarship.
“It’s a great honour to see that all my hard work in the classroom paid off,” he says. “It’s definitely tough to balance a busy hockey schedule and school,
but I tried my best at it and it’s great to be rewarded.”
RBC’s scholarship program is based on academic accomplishments and community service. Each of the 10 members of the Canadian Junior Hockey League selected
an individual winner; Grandinetti received $1,000 as the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s recipient, and was awarded $5,000 as the national winner,
all funds that will help offset the cost of his post-secondary education.
Once he finishes his four-year undergraduate program at Algoma, Grandinetti hopes to enroll at a chiropractic college or in a physiotherapist program, with
the long-term goal of owning his own chiropractic and physiotherapist practice. A minor in business may also be added to his course calendar in the future.
Grandinetti’s ambitions extend to the ice as well.
“I’d like to get a scholarship,” he says. “That’s been my goal for a long time. I have one year of junior left, so I’m hoping that I can pursue that. It’s
always been my dream to become a physiotherapist and chiropractor, and if I can do that while playing hockey at the same time, that’s the best of both
Grandinetti’s success – both present and future – is no surprise to those who know him.
“He’s a tremendous leader for our hockey team,” says Jamie Henderson, who recently stepped down as general manager of the Thunderbirds. “It’s something we
stressed a lot in my time with the team – we’re trying to build great hockey players and teams, but we’re also building great people, and Brandon’s a great
example of that. He’s hopefully going to play CIS hockey one day and he’s going to have a lot of doors open to him because of his commitment to the
The Thunderbirds have been on a successful run the past two seasons, advancing to the RBC Cup last year and to the championship game of the Dudley Hewitt
Cup this year. For Grandinetti, that’s meant being on the ice every day, in the classroom 15 hours a week and in study mode – wherever and whenever – in
the times in between.
Hitting the books on three-hour bus trips – “I get some razzing, like ‘Why are you doing homework on a hockey trip, you’re with the guys,’ but my teammates
understand school is important” – writing exams the morning after returning from said bus trips and leaving practice a few minutes early on test days are
all part of the game plan.
“I think the type of person I am has to do with it,” says Grandinetti. “I never give less than 100 per cent. I hate failing at something, so I keep
working. Sometimes after practice I’ll have to go back to school to finish my studies or after practice I’ll stay and work on my hockey skills – anything
to get better and reach my goals is pretty much the way I am.”
Grandinetti has been just as devoted to his community. In high school, he mentored Grade 9 students as part of Link Crew, the group having made a big
difference in his transition from shy elementary student to respected leader.
The past five years he’s delivered food and toys to the less fortunate during the holiday season. And this past year he’s made multiple visits to both
schools– “having those little kids look up to you as a person of success, I guess, [is nice],” – and the pediatric ward. “When you come into the room,
their faces light up and you kind of brighten their day and that brightens yours, too.”
The man the Thunderbirds call “Steady Eddie” for his consistent hard work – he set career highs in goals, assists and points this season – and leadership –
he was voted an alternate captain by his teammates – is grateful for the recognition his efforts have received and the help the financial reward will
provide for his future goals. He’s equally thankful for how hockey has equipped him for a life beyond the ice.
“It’s taught me about having a positive attitude toward life,” says Grandinetti. “Things might not go your way – after school you may not get a job right
away – but you have to keep persevering. It’s the same thing in hockey. There are a lot of ups and downs during the season – you’re not winning, you’re not
playing well – but you have to always have a positive attitude and try to turn things around.
“Hockey shaped me into the man I am today. From a young age we travelled alone so I’ve been away from my parents; it helped me become more mature. It’s
also helped me become more goal oriented and know what I want for myself.”