Grynol enjoying junior life in Thunder Bay

Last season, Aaron Grynol made road trips to places like Red Lake, Sioux Lookout, Kenora, and Dryden while starring as the Muskies leading scorer.
This season, he’s made the jump from high school hockey in Northwestern Ontario to the junior ranks, where he now suits up with the Thunder Bay Flyers of the United States Hockey League.
While he continues his scoring prowess with the Flyers (leading the team with 10 goals, including the game-winner in their 3-2 win over the Green Bay Gamblers at home last Saturday), what has changed the most is the opposition.
Much longer road trips now take the 16-year-old to places like Minneapolis, Sioux City, and Lincoln.
Grynol admits those 20-hour bus trips can be gruelling, but he also noted it’s exciting to play in new arenas before large, boisterous crowds–not always being welcome hosts to visiting teams.
“Mentally, it’s the biggest adjustment on the road when you’re making the big bus trips and you’re traveling all the time,” he said. “Sometimes you’re so tired after the second game [of a multi-game trip] that you have trouble eating,” said Grynol.
“[And] it’s so crazy playing in places like Omaha where you play in front of 6,000 people that dump beer on you,” he remarked. “But it’s also [exciting] with the light shows [before the game].
“It really pumps you up playing in those places,” added Grynol, who was back in town Monday during the league’s Christmas break.
Next season could bring a new twist in Grynol’s hockey career as the young centre will have to decide to jump to the Ontario Hockey League, or stay with the Flyers and then move on to a U.S. college career.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
There’s no question it will be his biggest hockey–and life–decision he’s faced so far. But it’s one he’s going to have to make.
“It’s a big decision–the biggest decision of my life,” he stressed without hesitation. “Coaches are pushing me to stay an extra year and older people are telling me to take the college route.
“But I’ve also talked to younger people, and I look at the [OHL] and it’s the quicker way to get to the [IHL] or [AHL],” he noted.
Grynol said he’s already gotten some attention from several U.S. college scouts who have expressed their interest through Flyer coach and GM Gary Wenzel, who scouted Grynol after he led the prestigious Kobe Cup Bantam tournament in goals last year as a member of the Dryden Hornets.
The OHL’s Kitchener Rangers also were ready to pursue Grynol after he ripped up the Kobe Cup tournament with the Hornets. But Grynol felt his hockey career would have been best served in a Flyer uniform.
And it’s becoming more and more evident with each game that he made the right decision.
Still, besides the most obvious spark Grynol has provided in the offensive end, the 5’10, 177-pounder also has made a considerable contribution on the physical end–a facet of the game Grynol agreed is one of the biggest adjustments he’s had to make from high school hockey.
“Here, the guys are really flying. Everyone’s faster and they play physical,” said Grynol, who admitted he’s had around five fights to help him accumulate 84 penalty minutes in 28 games to put him among the team leaders.
“You have to do anything you can to help the team. You got to do what you got to do, and stick up for your teammates,” he stressed.