Aylmer hockey player drafted in North American Hockey League
Selected by the Sorel-Tracy Éperviers with the eighth pick in the second round of the Ligue Nord-Américaine de Hockey (LNAH) draft on august 7, Aylmer-native netminder Domenic looks forward to kicking off his professional hockey career.
Grateful to see his talents recognized by the league and to still be receiving opportunities to play the game he loves at such a high level; Graham told the Aylmer Bulletin that he’s extremely excited to get back on the ice and strap on the pads for his new team. “I’m very thankful,” Graham said. “Not a lot of people have second chances at being brought back up, especially to make a living playing hockey as well. It’s still a good feeling to feel valued and be selected,” he added. “To know that some people still believe in you, that’s what I like about this league. I feel appreciated.”
Forced away from the game for over a year due to the pandemic – but still staying in shape - the 26-year-old last starred with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees’s in 2019-2020 showing stellar number and helping lead the program to an Ontario Collegiate Athletics Association (OCCA) championship and clinch a berth in the U Sports National Championship - which was eventually cancelled last minute due to Covid-19 – while also ending up an academic all-Canadian student-athlete. “It’s been a crazy year,” Graham said, noting that he went down to Tusla, Ok. for training camp last year before being released and returning to Ottawa. “You go one year having so much success, it was kind of a ghost town. There was no work, that even if you had success in 2020, it didn’t really matter, since the world went on pause.”
Drawing some attention from teams in Canada and south of the border following his U-Ottawa stint, Graham considered playing in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) for several months, before landing full-time job with the federal government making him decide between stability and hitting the road.
But, given the opportunity to play pro hockey while living in Aylmer with a full-time government job and still coach youth goaltending clinics across the region, Graham said the chance to get drafted in the LNAH was too good to pass up. “They play about two games per week,” Graham said, adding that the LNAH tends to also pay better money than the ECHL. “A lot of good players are in this league … I’m going to be ready to go. I take care of myself very well.”
Seeing his playing career nearing closer to the end than the beginning, Graham said he will do everything he can to soak in the experience as much as he possibly can. “It feels nice to be stable,” he added. “I know it’s hockey, but there’s a lot of sacrifices that go into it … I know I can play at this level too and win at this level. So, I’ll go and I’m all in for the time being. We’ll see if I can take care of my body really well and if that’s the case, we’ll see how many more years I can go.”
“I’m going to push every year to work hard and play every year,” he added. “But this will be my last kind of league before I enter the real world and kind of retirement. I think that kind of mindset has made me push and train hard because I don’t want it to be over … I’d like to push my longevity. There’s no more league after this.”
Thanking all his teammates, coaches, and mentors who played pivotal roles in helping him evolve in the person he is and achieve numerous accomplishments throughout his life on and off the ice.
Looking forward to suiting up for his new team, Graham says he’s also excited for the opportunity to play with some old friends from his time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and at the University of Ottawa. The 2021-2022 LNAH season should begin in the fall.