Grant Arnold will be wearing a “C” on his sweater next season for the college hockey team he grew up watching.
Arnold, who attended Arapahoe High School for three years, was named captain of the University of Denver hockey team for the 2014-15 season by coach Jim Montgomery.
“I don't want to say it's a dream come true,” said Arnold. “I never really thought the opportunity would present itself. It was a huge honor just in general to come to DU, growing up watching them, watching them win the back-to-back championships (in 2004 and 2005). It's a huge honor. I'm very blessed to have it.”
Arnold, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior, isn't a high-profile player who draws the immediate attention of opponents. He played last season on DU's “Mash Line” and his gritty, physical play provided valuable contributions for the Pioneers that didn't show up in statistics.
In 76 games with DU over the past two seasons, Arnold has three goals and 11 points but now will take on an additional role as team captain.
“I've been a captain before so I'm comfortable in the role,” said Arnold. “I was really, really happy I could get it this year.”
Arnold has watched and tried to follow the example of several National Hockey League captains.
“Obviously Joe Sakic growing up when the Avs were on their great run for those years,” said Arnold. “He really wasn't the kind of player that I am but I always looked up to him. Today, I love Dustin Brown of the L.A. Kings. He plays a very physical style and he's always so composed. He's very intense with his teammates but he's also always there for them and has their back.
“Back in the day, I never got to see him play because I was too young but I watched a ton on highlights of Wendel Clark. He is the kind of the guy I love to watch in highlights and I try to play like he did. And Ray Bourque when he was here. That was really an emotional experience when he won his first Cup with the Avs.”
Clark was a captain for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1991-94 and Bourque served as the Boston Bruins captain for 21 seasons before finishing his career with Colorado.
Arnold played three years of high school hockey for Arapahoe before leaving for Green Bay his senior year to play for the Gamblers Tier I team in the United States Hockey League. He played three seasons for the Gamblers before coming to DU.
“For the most part these days you have to leave home and go play someplace else if you're not fortunate enough to have a junior league team in your hometown,” explained Arnold. “I hated to leave my senior year. It was a tough decision, but I wanted to pursue the hockey dream.
“I can't even put into words the experience I had in Green Bay. We won two national championships. I was the captain of the second one and it was insane. The year we didn't win we made it to the finals and lost to Montgomery's team in the championship.”
Arnold was one of eight Colorado players on the DU roster last season.
“I kind grew up in the era of hockey really growing in Colorado,” he added. “It's been awesome to see. Now we have the Thunderbirds and Rampage, two elite AAA programs. When I was at Arapahoe we won state championships and we had a great team. We had 13 AAA kids on our team. Hockey has really grown. It's not at a level where other states are but it has excelled.”
Arnold played for the Thunderbirds before moving on to the Gamblers and to DU.
“Grant embodies what a hockey player is all about,” said former Pioneer player and Thunderbirds coach Angelo Ricci. “He plays with great energy, passion and has a high compete level.
“His teammates feed off his attitude and work ethic which are certainly contagious throughout the locker room. I believe DU may have some players with more skill but I am not sure if they have any with more heart than Grant.”