(Photo: Rhonda R. McClure)
Picture a small towheaded boy standing on the driveway firing pucks at the garage door. From time to time, the sound of breaking glass follows closely after the whack of the stick on the puck. Perhaps a recognizable scene for many parents of young boys with dreams of becoming a professional hockey player, for Todd and Tondra Hargrove this was a reality. One can’t help wondering what went through their heads after their son Colton had destroyed the glass panes in the garage door. Did they yell? Did they recognize his potential? According to Hargrove, they were wise enough to replace the broken windows with Plexiglas.
While attending the recent Boston Bruins development camp for the third year, Colton Hargrove, a Bruins draft in 2012, set aside a little time after on-ice drills to talk with The Pink Puck about how he got into hockey and where he is now in his development.
Born in Rockwell, Texas, the 22-year-old enters his junior year at Western Michigan University this fall where he plays left wing for the Broncos men’s hockey team under the tutelage of head coach Andy Murray, someone that Hargrove holds in high regard and whose guidance, encouragement and knowledge he follows and appreciates.
Going back to a much younger Hargrove, The Pink Puck asked him what he liked so much about hockey. Like most players, his passion for the game is apparent; in his case as apparent as the beard he was sporting during camp. The affable Hargrove took us back to pre-garage door days, describing his introduction to hockey.
“When I used to go to daycare when I was younger, we used to go on field trips to an indoor roller rink and we got there one day and there was a hockey game going on.” Hargrove said. “I kinda thought it was cool, so I went home and told my dad to get me some skates and a stick. He went out and bought me some.”
From daycare to driveway to development, it’s clear that Hargrove enjoys hockey. When asked how old he was when he first decided that he wanted to play hockey professionally, he gave the question some consideration before responding.
“I’d say about…um… pretty young… elementary school,” he told The Pink Puck. “I just fell in love with it.”
This did not seem to be the idle wishes of a child who dreams of being an astronaut or a princess. In the end, at the young age of twelve or thirteen he was making the decision to put aside other sports and concentrate on hockey. Even his choice of colleges was colored by his need to succeed at hockey. Having played two years in the USHL on the Fargo Force, Hargrove committed to Western Michigan University.
When asked what tipped the scales for him in favor of WMU, Hargrove was quick to respond.
“Mostly Andy Murray. He’s a great coach. He’s been around awhile. He definitely knows what he’s talking about,” Hargrove said with a hint of admiration in his voice. “He’s great with the guys. Pat Ferschweiler is a great coach. Jokes around, [but when it] comes down to it, he’s serious. They expect a lot out of us. So, I mean, it’s a great coaching staff.”
His admiration for Coach Murray had come up earlier in camp when asked if he felt he had grown and improved since attending Bruins development camp in 2013. He attributes a lot of his growth on and off the ice to the entire coaching staff at WMU.
“Our strength and conditioning coach Tim has helped me a lot,” he explained. “Working out all summer. During the year kinda keeping the muscle and all that stuff.”
However, his decision to choose the college route to professional hockey over Canada’s Major Juniors was more to do with hockey than the education he will also have upon his completion of his years at WMU.
The Pink Puck asked him what made him decide that college was his best option.
“I think just longer development. You know, if you age out in Major Juniors in Canada, I mean, it’s hard to go somewhere, you know, if you didn’t develop fast enough,” Hargrove offered with consideration. “I think college gives you that extra time to develop before you go anywhere. It’s helped a lot being in college.”
Because the Canadian Major Juniors route to the NHL was not an option for him, The Pink Puck asked him if he felt some of the NCAA rules hindered his on-ice growth at all in comparison. He was candid in his response.
“It’s a whole different game from Major Juniors to college, especially with guys getting their sticks up in Juniors. They’re more cautious about that with the visors and stuff. College is more kinda ruthless,” he said. “I think it’s more physical too—outside of the fighting. I think it’s a more defensive game in college.”
And he agreed with The Pink Puck about the speed of the game in college.
Development Camp Opportunities
Hargrove was aware of what he needed to do while attending the recent development camp. He wanted the coaches and the rest of the Bruins management to recognize that he has matured physically and mentally but he also recognized that he still has work to do.
“Being a bigger body, that’s my job to protect the puck and take it to the net,” he said. “I want them to see that I can do that stuff and I can play in this league eventually.”
He looks forward to the opportunity to participate in development camp each year since he was drafted.
“All these guys have tremendous talent, so it’s good to have that kind of competition when you come to development camp,” he shared. “It’s been a lot of fun but also competitive.”
Hargrove also recognizes the privilege he has been afforded by being included in camp each year. It is not something he takes lightly or for granted.
“Nothing’s set in stone. Just because you’ve been drafted doesn’t mean that you’re going to make it. One of the invites could take your spot at any given time,” he explained. “It’s definitely a privilege to be here, but you have to put in the work to make that jump to the next level. I mean, you’re trying to take the guy ahead of you’s spot and these guys are trying to take your spot. It’s all business now so you gotta put in the work to get there.”
And while it may be business, it is still clear that for Colton Hargrove, there is a joy that he takes from the game that continues to infuse him. It appears in his smile, his willingness to help the newcomers to camp and in his determination to do whatever he must to continue on his path to professional hockey.