OMAHA, Neb. — Like many hockey players, Grant Cruikshank can pick out his mom's voice when he is playing, even when there are 10,000 fans in the stands.
"She has one of the loudest voices and I can still hear her when she comes to my college games," Cruikshank said with a laugh. "It can be sold out in Denver or North Dakota and I can still hear her from the bench or when I'm on the ice. She's got a super loud voice and she used to have a couple blow horns and I think she got them from the Nagano Olympics. You certainly perk up when those things go off."
Cruikshank's mother attended the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, to support her husband Dave Cruikshank, who was a speed skater competing in his fourth Olympics. But before getting married in 1996, Bonnie Blair won five Olympic gold medals in speed skating and competed in four Olympic games.
Grant was not born until July 1998, so he never saw his parents compete in person. They are his parents to him and, when Grant looks at their accomplishments, he sounds amazed.
"I wasn't around for any of them, but I've looked up a couple of their races online and it's definitely hard to believe," he said. "To me, she's just mom and he's just dad. But it's incredible the accomplishments that they've had."
Grant has had some pretty cool accomplishments recently for the Colorado College men's hockey team. Cruikshank had two goals and an assist to help the Tigers upend two-time defending national champion Minnesota Duluth on Sunday and has four goals and five points in his first five games.
The Tigers (2-2-1) will be looking for their third straight win in the NCHC Pod when they play ninth-ranked St. Cloud State (4-2) at 3:35 p.m. Friday.
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Lots of skating tips
Not surprisingly, one of Cruikshank's strengths as a hockey player is his skating. With two Olympic speed skaters as parents, how did he learn how to skate?
"I learned to skate on a backyard rink in Utah that my parents would make and I learned to skate with hockey skates and pushing around a bucket," said Cruikshank, who learned to skate at age 2. "I used that to help me stand up. I strapped up the speed skates probably shortly thereafter, but really enjoyed hockey.
While the blades on the skates are a different length (speed skating skates are longer), Cruikshank said that the elements of being a strong skater in hockey are the same. Dave Cruikshank has been the skating coach for the Los Angeles Kings since 2016, founded and runs DC Hybrid Skating, coaches some speed skaters in the Milwaukee area and also runs a number of hockey skating camps during the offseason.
"As my dad has learned throughout his career and through his studying, it's all about physics and the physics about how to go fast don't lie," Cruikshank said. "If you want to go fast in speed skating, it's the same as going fast in hockey. Even though the skates are a little bit different, it's virtually the same.
"He's been a great skating coach for tons of hockey guys and a bunch of speed skaters. Both my parents have taught me everything I know about skating and how to go fast. They both do a great job and it's my dad's career now. It's very complicated and I certainly haven't grasped everything yet and I'm still working on everything on a day-to-day basis. But especially in the summer, we try to hammer away at it. We know if you can't skate, you can't play.
"They both know everything there is about skating, how to go fast, how to apply pressure to the ice. They're both great teachers."
Bonnie is a consultant for DC Hybrid Skating, but is dedicating most of her time to coaching Grant's sister, Blair, who is a 20-year-old speed skater. In February, Blair Cruikshank took 22nd in the 500 meters, 28th in the 1,000, 32nd in the 1,500 and was in the Team Sprint event for Team USA at the International Skating Union World Junior Speed Skating Championships in Poland.
Blair Cruikshank originally was a gymnast, but wrist injuries ended her career and she started speed skating in recent years with the hopes of competing in the Winter Olympics in Beijing or the 2026 Games in Italy.
"A lot of people think her name is Blair Blair, but it's Blair Cruikshank," Grant Cruikshank said with a laugh. "She's training in Milwaukee in the speed skating oval there at the Pettit Center. She made the Olympic trials for the previous Olympics. She's trying to make the next Games and if she doesn't, I really think she's going to make the next Games after that.
"She's one of the strongest girls I've ever seen and I'm not just saying that because she's my sister. She's insanely strong and the amount of time and work she puts into her training in unbelievable. It's like my parents get to work out again and they get to coach her and go through all her training and workouts. They get to stay in shape and they're pushing her as much as my sister is pushing them because, obviously, they're super competitive."
A leader for the Tigers
Cruikshank is not only competitive, but a leader for the Tigers. He's been the team's captain each of the past two seasons and has 26 goals and 40 points in 79 college games going into Friday's game.
"Grant does a lot of the little things right," said Colorado College coach Mike Haviland, who is a former minor league head coach and former assistant coach in the NHL. "He tough on pucks, he back pressures, the way he prepares for a game, the way he takes care of himself after a game — he leads this team on and off the ice. We have such a young group (12 freshmen, seven sophomores) and we've got a good group.
"They're learning the standards from Grant and the upperclassmen. Grant does all the details the right way in his preparation, practice habits ... Grant doesn't do anything but hard and that's what you want from your leader. It trickles down and we're starting to see that from everybody."
After a shootout win over Western Michigan, the Tigers, who finished last in the NCHC in 2019-20, then went on to beat the Bulldogs and then Miami 4-1 on Tuesday. Cruikshank played a big role in the last two wins, scoring the game-winning goal against Minnesota Duluth and being a plus-4 in the last two games.
"I have to use my speed to create turnovers and put pressure on the other team's players, particularly their defensemen," said Cruikshank, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds and is playing on the Tigers' top line with freshman center Jackson Jutting and junior right wing Ben Copeland.
"I certainly think that I can put the puck in the back of the net and find those soft areas. Especially for this team, I think I show that work ethic and compete every game. There's a lot of different areas that I try to bring to the table. If I'm not scoring, I want to be great on the (penalty kill) and I want to be great on the forecheck and my details in the 'D' zone. If some of them aren't going my way, I try to do the other things well."
And Cruikshank, who grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Delafield, Wis., thanks his parents for helping instill a lot of the qualities that he is bringing to Colorado College.
"It's pretty hard to put into words what they've meant to me and what they mean to me," said Cruikshank, a two-time NCHC All-Academic Team selection and political science major. "They are the best role models and the best parents that anyone could ask for. The amount of support that they give me and my sister — it's really hard to put into words what they mean there.
"Such great people and they've taught me so much both on and off the ice. That's why I think I've really started to take on that leadership role is because I've learned so much from my parents. I've just been brought up in such a great way for them. I can't speak highly enough of them and I love them so much."