At the end of every season, the Northern Pacific Hockey League graduates countless players to either higher levels of hockey, or education. After last season, the Tri-City Outlaws saw several players go on to play at the next level, which includes the Outlaws’ former defenseman, Grandon Pickering.
Pickering’s journey to the NPHL, and eventually the Outlaws, was a long one. He laced up his first pair of skates when he was about two years old. Three years later, skating around with family led to Pickering eventually joining his first hockey team. Pickering said, “when I was little, my dad took me to an Indianapolis professional hockey game. It was during this game when I told him I wanted to play hockey. Then the next thing I knew, he signed me up for classes.”
This began the daily grind for Pickering to build his skills, and eventually make the leap to junior hockey, years later. Pickering said, “when I first stared playing hockey, I played in Indiana. Then around the seventh or eighth grade, my family moved to Kansas, which is where I played high school hockey.”
After playing high school hockey for several years, Pickering went on to spend some brief time in two junior hockey leagues. His first stop was in the Western States Hockey League. While in the WSHL, Pickering played for the Wichita Jr. Thunder. After this, Pickering went on to the United States Premier Hockey League and played for the Hampton Roads Whalers. This was all during the 2013 – 2014 season.
Once the 2013 – 2014 season concluded, Pickering traveled up north to Vancouver, Washington, for the following season. But before the season began, the club Pickering was playing for was not able to put enough players on the ice, so the franchise folded. After this, Pickering had the opportunity to be traded to the Outlaws, which he accepted.
Pickering said, “being traded to the Outlaws was an easy transition to make. The team’s general manager, Jordan Owen, was awesome. My billets were amazing; they truly were one in a million. What made this such an easy transition was that everything felt like home while I was on the team. Everyone within the organization was great, and they treated me extremely well.”
While on the Outlaws, Pickering played 29 games for the team and recorded two assists. But being a defenseman isn’t always about the glamorous points. Being a defenseman is about the grit, determination, and physicality that a player must embody to help protect the net. Pickering truly demonstrated all three of these qualities while on the Outlaws.
Following the 2014 – 2015 season, Pickering made the jump to ACHA hockey. This happened when Pickering announced he would be playing for the University of Nebraska Huskers for the 2015 – 2016 season. Pickering said, “while I was in Wichita, Nebraska’s coach started looking at me as a prospective player. After that, he contacted me and told me that he wanted me to play a few more seasons of junior hockey, which is what I did. During my last season of juniors, we got back in touch after he watched me in the NPHL. That pretty much sealed the deal, so I made the jump to Nebraska after the end of the season.”
Transitioning to college hockey can be difficult. No matter the level, there is always a learning curve. But leagues do what they can to help make this learning curve as minimal as possible. Pickering said, “the NPHL did a great job in preparing me for college. There was a lot of great talent while I was on the Outlaws. It’s a young league, and because there aren’t many older kids, it makes it more of a developmental league. Their goal truly is to move players along.”
Pickering continued, “while on the Outlaws, I switched positions from forward to defense. So I was able to grow the defensive side of my game. I really focused on that instead of being a forward and getting points. It was a little bit of a shock, but it helped me a lot because I play defense here at Nebraska.”
After his first season of college hockey, Pickering reflected on it and said, “it was a great season. We were able to go to the regional tournament, which is essentially playoffs. We lost in the first round, so we didn’t get to go to nationals. But overall, it was a great season.”
With this season now over, Pickering and the Huskers will head into the off-season to prepare for the 2016 – 2017 season. Although this NPHL alumni’s season is over, the Outlaws are heading into the first round of the NPHL’s playoffs against the Wenatchee Wolves. The first game in this series is scheduled to start on Saturday, March 12th, at 7:35 pm (PST).
Tune in to the NPHL’s website for a full recap following the conclusion of the game.
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