It doesn’t seem so long ago to Joey Fodstad that he was a newcomer to the Rochester Grizzlies.
Of course, when Fodstad was a newcomer to the Grizzlies, everyone in the locker room was a newcomer to the Grizzlies.
Now Fodstad is the old-timer, the 20-year-old who led the team in scoring last season and led it to its first-ever North American 3 Hockey League Central Division championship, in the team’s second season of existence.
Fodstad has shown that he’s talented enough to play at the North American Hockey League level -- he played three games with the Minnesota Wilderness last season and has practiced often with the Austin Bruins over the past two seasons. It’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity.
But Fodstad isn’t one to dwell on what could be.
Instead, he’s looking at what will be.
When the Grizzlies open training camp next week at the Rochester Recreation Center, Fodstad just might be the only third-year Grizzly on the team. He’s been with the franchise since its inception, and if he isn’t playing in the NAHL, there’s no place he’d rather be than Rochester.
“I’m excited to get back, especially after how our season ended last year,” Fodstad said of the NA3HL season being canceled on the eve of the postseason beginning, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fodstad, who had 28 goals and 26 assists last season, was one of 88 players at the Rec Center last weekend, who were vying for a spot on the 2020-21 Grizzlies. He has his sights set high this season once again. Rochester’s returning players won’t be satisfied this season unless they can have the opportunity to play for something beyond a division championship.
“I want to help us make it to the Fraser Cup this year,” Fodstad said, in regards to the NA3HL’s postseason championship tournament. “Our first year, we played North Iowa in the playoffs and that was a tough test, not an easy place to play in their old barn. Then last year we didn’t even get a chance (to play in the postseason).
“Hopefully this year, too, I can get a chance to help some of the younger guys who aren’t really sure about juniors yet. Hopefully I can be a leader to them and hopefully we can make a push to the Fraser Cup. That’s the ultimate goal every year and that’s what I’m really hoping for.”
Though the Grizzlies’ record book only dates back two seasons, Fodstad’s name is sprinkled all over it.
He’s the franchise’s leader in career goals scored (48), third in total points (86), fourth in games played (84) and fifth in assists (37). If he plays another full season in Rochester, the 6-feet-1, 190-pound native of Rogers will be the standard for all future Grizzlies players to look up to.
Personal accomplishments aren’t at the forefront of Fodstad’s mind, though. He’s still thinking about the way his second season in Rochester ended, when the team was on its bus, heading to Peoria, Ill., to start their first-round playoff series, but they were told to turn around halfway there.
“It’s always going to be in the back of our heads,” he said, “because we felt like we had a special team and we felt like we could have won the whole thing, could’ve beat anyone on any night. It made it worse that we had such a tight bond as a team.
“It was a good group of guys. You can’t recreate that … well, you can and that’s what we want to do this year. We had something special last year and it sucked that we couldn’t go out there and give it our all (in the playoffs), but there’s not much you can do when it’s a worldwide pandemic.
“Then you sit at home for a couple months and aren’t able to do anything. I just wanted to play hockey. So I’m excited that our season is still on and we have a month to prepare for Oct. 2. I’m looking forward to it.”