Gamblers forward Danny DiGrande has been through a lot in his three years in the USHL. From being traded to season-ending injuries, DiGrande’s emotions have run the gamut. Now in Green Bay, DiGrande looks for one last shot at the Clark Cup.
Growing up in Macomb, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit, DiGrande first laced up the skates at two-years old with a little encouragement from his dad and brother.
“My dad always loved to play hockey while he was growing up, but never played seriously. He then got my older brother into hockey. And me – I always wanted to be like my older brother,” said DiGrande who credits his start in hockey to his older brother. “Watching my older brother really drove me to play hockey because watching him I knew I wanted to be just like him.”
DiGrande along with his two brothers grew up playing hockey. Playing alongside his older brother Marc allowed DiGrande to play with the older kids.
“Playing up two years really pushed me to become the player I am. I played with my older brother for about six years,” said DiGrandi who transitioned down to playing one year-up, then eventually to playing in his own age division when contact-hockey began. “I think one of the best parts of playing youth hockey was being able to play with my older brother for almost my entire life.”
Marc just graduated from Michigan State University and is applying to medical school. DiGrande’s younger brother Joey, who despite only a sophomore in high school, is a business owner.
DiGrande has continued his progression on the ice. His abilities have led to playing in some of the top leagues in Michigan and the United States. Beginning in 2013, DiGrande played two seasons with the AAA Oakland Jr. Grizzlies U16 and U18 teams.
“It was the best seasons of my life. It was a really great group of guys to play alongside and the coaches made the experience even more fun for me,” said DiGrande.
In his junior year of high school, DiGrande started getting interest from a number of USHL teams. DiGrande first foray in the USHL was at the Lincoln Stars tryout camp. Although he participated in the Stars All-Star game he was not given a spot on the roster.
With a little encouragement from his parents, DiGrande bypassed playing in the NAHL and returned home to play another year of AAA hockey.
In 2015, DiGrande was selected by the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the 2nd round of the USHL Phase II Entry Draft. After starting the year in Muskegon, Digrande was sent to the Springfield Blues of the NAHL. After producing five points in five games, DiGrande returned to Muskegon. The highlight of the year for DiGrande was notching a hat trick. In all DiGrande would appear in 37 games, recording three goals and four assists.
That following summer, DiGrande received a call while on the golf course, telling him he had been traded to the Tri City Storm. With the Storm, DiGrande tallied nine goals and seven assists in 37 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury on Valentine’s Day.
With the injury, DiGrande went home to Macomb for the remainder of the season. Back home, he took all of the necessary strides to get back on the ice.
DiGrande was again on the move prior to 2017-18 campaign. This time his rights were traded to the Waterloo Black Hawks. DiGrande would see action in 18 games with the Black Hawks before being traded to Green Bay. Ironically, the trade for DiGrande became a priority when the Gamblers lost Assistant Captain Matt Jennings to a season-ending knee injury.
“They really welcomed me and that made it a really easy transition for me being here,” said DiGrande of the Gamblers organization.
In 12 games with the Gamblers, DiGrande has accumulated four points with one goal and three assists.
“I have no complaints at all,” says DiGrande. “The fans and my host family have welcomed me with open arms. This being my third trade, they’ve made it really easy on me. I have a great roommate, teammates, and great coaches. Green Bay is a great junior hockey town overall.”
In the fall of 2018 DiGrande will arrive on the campus of RPI in Troy, New York. DiGrande had multiple schools, who were interested in his talents, but after seeing Huston Field House, RPI’s hockey arena and meeting the team, DiGrande felt assured of his choice.
“I was talking to a couple of schools when RPI flew me out for a visit. So, I went there with an open-mind,” said DiGrande. “My dad met me there which made things a little bit easier. When I landed the coaches picked me up and right when we got on campus – I knew I loved the place.”
While at RPI, DiGrande plans to study business in hopes of following in his dad’s footsteps to one day becoming a business owner.
“If the pro-hockey option is there for me after college, that is obviously a dream of mine. But I know that after hockey there has to be a plan. So, it’s going to be the business route for me.”
DiGrande has tackled a lot in his three seasons of hockey at the junior level. From trades to season ending injuries, he shows that the unpredictability of everyday life will not stop him from living out his dreams.