Born in Germany. Grew up in Italy. Moved to Quebec. Plays in Ontario.
The road to Team Canada has been an interesting one for Alexis Gravel, whose path in the game has led him to Lillehammer, Norway, and the 2016 Winter Youth
But while playing on the Olympic stage is new for the Canadian netminder, it’s a familiar experience for the Gravel family; Alexis’ father, François
Gravel, tended goal for France at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.
A Sherbrooke, Que., native, the elder Gravel was a third-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft, playing parts of three seasons
in the American Hockey League before embarking on a 12-year pro career in Europe.
Joining a team in Angers, France, in 1994, Gravel received French citizenship in time to represent the country at the 1997 IIHF World Championship, and
again one year later at the 1998 Olympics.
With ‘Miracle on Ice’ coach Herb Brooks behind the bench, he appeared in two games (making 19 saves in a 5-2 win over Japan, and 29 stops in a 2-0 loss to
Germany) as the French went out in the preliminary round, eventually finishing in 11th place.
“To play in Nagano and share the ice with NHLers was the highlight of my career,” Gravel says. “The feeling of being in the Olympic Village and sharing the
experience with the other athletes was awesome.”
Fast forward 18 years, and it’s Alexis’ turn to represent his country on the biggest stage in sports.
The young goaltender certainly has not had the typical upbringing in the game; born in Germany while his father played with Revier Löwen Oberhausen and
Eisbären Berlin during the 1999-2000 season, Alexis got his start on the ice during a five-year stint in Italy before the family returned to Canada in
Learning the game in Asiago and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Alexis didn’t have access to the same type of coaching that young Canadian players get, so he turned to
the best player he knew – his father.
“It’s definitely different, growing up in Italy,” he says. “I was lucky to have my dad teach me the game.”
According to François, teaching his son the game was never a chore; he describes it as “a privilege,” and says he wishes he had Alexis’ passion and
determination when he was a young goaltender.
It’s that passion and determination that led Alexis to the Mississauga Senators and the Greater Toronto Hockey League; not only does playing Minor Midget
AAA in the GTHL put Alexis up against some of the best young players in the country, it’s also an opportunity for him to work on his English.
For two weeks this month, though, he has traded in the black, red, and gold of the Senators for the red and white of Team Canada, with his sights set
squarely on Canada’s first Youth Olympic hockey gold.
So what words of wisdom did he get from his father before he departed for Norway?
“My advice was simple,” François says. “Concentrate on what you can control, enjoy every minute, and have fun. To me, it doesn’t matter the result, I could
not be prouder of him. To see my son growing as a good person, humble with great values … I’m a lucky dad.”