Jim Gravel was a forward for the St. Cloud State hockey team from 1977-81. Like most fathers, he has high hopes for his son. Unlike many, he'll someday enjoy watching him play for his alma mater.
Kevin Gravel, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound, 16-year-old chip off the ol' block, elected to verbally commit to the Huskies on Tuesday.
"I was fortunate that my dad had the experience of playing in St. Cloud and he's taught me a lot in my hockey career," said Kevin Gravel, a defenseman who has two assists and is minus-1 with eight penalty minutes through 16 games for the NAHL's Marquette Rangers. "What he told me about St. Cloud attracted me from the start. I went there on a visit this summer and, after that, I pretty much knew that was the place for me. It's going to be a great fit."
Kevin Gravel elected to commit to SCSU despite a pair of full-scholarship offers from Michigan State and Northern Michigan.
"Both of those schools are in the CCHA and, nothing against them because they're great programs, I just think the WCHA is the best conference in college hockey," Kevin Gravel said. "Every weekend you're playing in some of the best buildings and in front of the best fans in the country."
Those schools had family connections, too. His older sister, Kelly, is a senior at Michigan State, and his mom, Kathy, graduated from Northern Michigan.
"His sister is disappointed and, of course, Northern Michigan would've been a lot closer to home, but I can't say I don't have a lot of pride in the fact that he's going to St. Cloud," said Jim Gravel, who lives in Kingsford. His son has moved in with his aunt and uncle's family in Marquette, about an hour-and-a-half northeast, so he can play in the NAHL.
"I always kind of hoped for this, but I also told him 'Hey, it's your decision. Don't do anything for me. You have to be comfortable with the choice you make,' " said Jim Gravel, who is vice-president at a bank in Kingsford. "He had other offers, but I think Mike Gibbons and Bob Motzko and Eric Rud recruited him hard and made an impression on him."
Jim Gravel, who is originally from Minneapolis, played on the same line with Jeff Passolt, who has since become more famous as a Twin Cities TV news anchor. Gravel also skated against Gibbons, then a defenseman at Bemidji State. Gravel coached his son in youth hockey, and Kevin was a forward until he reached bantam age and was playing for a team in Escanaba.
"He's a big, athletic kid with room to grow," said Jim Gravel, who scored 51 goals and totaled 101 points in his career under former head coach Charlie Basch. "Kevin's also got really good skating ability, which is why I think the SCSU coaches were so interested."
The Huskies' coaching staff is prohibited by NCAA regulations from making any public comment on recruits until they've signed a letter of intent.
"My points don't show it, but I like to jump up in the play," said Kevin Gravel, who won't turn 17 until March 6. "I'm a defense-first kind of guy, but I think I can add something in a lot of areas."
He's been drafted by Sioux City of the USHL, and likely will play there at least next season -- his senior year of high school -- before eventually coming to SCSU.
Photo by RJ Meyer/NAHL