EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Several months later, the absurdity of Nov. 18, 2014 is not lost on Florida Panthers forward Rocco Grimaldi.
That was the day he pulled the rare double-header, playing in two different games in two different leagues.
Grimaldi started the day in Texas with Florida Panthers’ AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. He finished it up that night with the Panthers at the LA Kings.
“Definitely never expected that to happen,” Grimaldi said at the Toyota Sports Center, where the Anaheim native trains during the summer.
Grimaldi’s first game started at 10:30 a.m. central time in San Antonio between the Rampage and the Oklahoma City Barons. It started that early so school children could watch that Tuesday.
“I didn’t even know it was possible to happen. I didn’t know about the 10:30 a.m. games the AHL does sometimes for school field trips and different things for elementary schools around town,” he said.
Before the third period began, Grimaldi was pulled aside and told he needed to head to Los Angeles ASAP as an emergency recall for Panthers center Aleksander Barkov.
“I had to go home right away, grab a bag and get to the airport as fast as possible,” Grimaldi said.
While waiting for his plane Grimaldi ate “lunch” which was a turkey sandwich from an airport restaurant. Generally airport meals are pretty gross and hockey players are quite regimented in their eating habits on game days. Grimaldi was predictably not a huge fan of his food.
“I had lunch … kind of – one tiny sandwich,” he said grimacing.
Then he got on his direct flight to Los Angeles and arrived at LAX at 5 p.m. on a weekday for the 7:30 p.m. start. This of course meant he needed to brave the legendary Los Angeles rush hour traffic to get from the airport to Staples Center. He said it took him about 50 minutes, which must have set some sort of land speed traffic record since it should take much longer.
“When my car pulled in they didn’t know who I was because I wasn’t on the roster for security, so they wouldn’t let me down the tunnel,” Grimaldi said. “They brought up this random car that I threw my bag and sticks on and hopped in with my suit and sat on the back with my legs hanging out.”
Then came his pre-game meal, which was a hamburger bun with peanut butter.
“My eating habits were terrible that day,” Grimaldi said.
During the game Grimaldi said he felt like 24 hours or more had gone past from the morning game to the nighttime contest.
“I felt like it wasn’t even the same day. It felt like days ago or weeks ago because it was so random,” he said.
In his 10:36 of action, his legs didn’t bother him at all. Probably because he was just 21 years old, but still, even the youngest and most spry of men get tired.
“You never know when something like that can happen,” Grimaldi said. “You do two-a-days during the summer so you’re kind of used to it.”
In that case, he had pretty good foresight to prepare for something like that. So he’s ready if it happens again? Right?
“It’s an experience I’ll never ever have again,” Grimaldi said.
Well, life is all about experiences and Grimaldi had one of the strangest ones in NHL history.
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