Guelph Gryphons fans won’t want to hear this, but defenceman Patrick Sanvido still gets chills thinking about his Queen’s Gaels’ Queen’s Cup OUA men’s hockey championship win last year.
“That was honestly the best game I’d ever been a part of,” the Guelph native said of the Queen’s Cup game following a loss to the Gryphons in regular-season play this week at the Gryphon Centre.
Queen’s defeated the Gryphons 4-1 in last season’s OUA final at the Kingston Memorial Centre.
“Playing at home ice – it just gives me goosebumps just thinking about it,” Sanvido said.
“We had a sold-out crowd, the first time that barn had been sold out since the Seventies. We had a great group and, obviously, the rest was what it was and we got to celebrate at home. I had my family there and I got to take pictures.”
The atmosphere was also unlike anything he’d experienced in five seasons of major junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League.
“I’d played in front of 10,000 people in London, but to play in front of 3,500 peers – it looked like the glass was going to break at points – it was so much fun,” he said. “To get to go to Nationals after that was another hell of an experience.”
By winning the OUA’s East Division championship, Queen’s was assured of a berth in the U Sports championship tournament.
“That is incredible,” he said of that tournament. “We got to play against the best teams in the country. Unfortunately, we blew a lead against St. FX and they ended up going on. That’s another testament. You look at the guys we were playing there. Some of them have signed NHL contracts from that tournament and they’re in the American League doing really well. That’s just a testament of where U Sports hockey has come from and how good it’s getting, especially in that tournament.”
Queen’s dropped its national quarter-final 5-3 to the St. Francis Xavier X-Men as the X-Men scored three unanswered goals in the third period for the win.
After playing five years of major junior hockey, Sanvido finds OUA hockey to be a bit different.
“It is very fast,” the 23-year-old Guelph native said. “I always say that the biggest difference is that there’s not that first-round-pick talent. There’s not a Connor McDavid. There’s not Dylan Strome. The guys are bigger.
“It’s one of those things that every year the hockey gets better and better. We bring in the overagers from major junior every year. The hockey, since I’ve been there it’s been great, especially when you get playing against good teams like Guelph and McGill and Carleton. Teams like that, it’s really fast hockey and they’re big. A lot of guys are stronger and a lot bigger than they were in junior.”
Sanvido played four and a quarter seasons in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires before being dealt to the Sudbury Wolves to finish off his final season. He amassed a total of eight goals, 37 assists and 264 penalty minutes in 299 regular-season and playoff games combined.
He’s now in his third season at Queen’s and has totalled six goals, 14 assists and 56 penalty minutes 74 regular-season games. He’s also in his first season as captain of the Gaels, but he’s been a captain in the past.
“In Windsor I was a captain for three years,” he said. “I got to learn from a lot of great leaders. There have been so many NHL players go through there and so many (great leaders), between the coaches and the captains before me. It was something that I took a lot of pride in and, obviously, I think it has something to do with the way I was raised.”
But there is a bit of a difference being a captain in major junior and a captain in university hockey.
“In junior we have guys that are 16 years old to 20 year-olds where here we have anywhere from 20 to 26 year olds,” he said. “It’s a different dynamic in that we’re all still trying to play pro hockey and we’re all trying to do the best we can where in junior guys are looking at the NHL more and they’re trying to get drafted and this and that. It’s definitely a different dynamic having to balance class and all that. There are definitely different challenges being a captain at the varsity level versus junior. There are some similarities, but there are some challenges.”
Sanvido is studying geography at Queen’s as he narrowed his studies down following his first year at the Kingston university.
“My first year, it had been so long. I’d taken a few classes in junior, university classes, but it had been so long since I’d been in full-time school that when I got to Queen’s I kind of took an assortment of things in my first year to kind of see what I liked again,” he said. “Geography I did well in and it’s interesting to me so we’ll see where it takes me. I might have to do some post-grad, but we’ll see. That’s down the road.”
Like all varsity athletes, combining the sport with the schooling is like having a full-time job.
“You’re going to class every day and you’re working out every day and you’re going to class every day,” Sanvido said. “It’s the exact same commitment as major junior, but now you’re a full-time university student which is exetremely challenging, especially at a school like Queen’s where’s it’s a very high academic school.”
Sanvido was drafted in the seventh round, 195th overall, of the 2014 NHL entry draft by the Dallas Stars.
“I went to the rookie camps and all that kind of stuff and I got to go through that process,” he said. “You know what? They were a great organization and they helped me out a lot and that was part of me becoming a leader there as well. They gave me the tools. Obviously things didn’t work out, but they were good about it and they gave me every opportunity.”
Of course sitting in a dressing room with players he’d seen play on television or just seeing their names on the stalls in the dressing room was a very humbling experience.
“It’s definitely a very unique experience and very special and it’s one of those things that I’ll be able to tell my kids about some day that I think is pretty cool and I hope they’ll think that, too.”
Like most university students, Sanvido’s trips home are rare. He was here during the Christmas holidays, but his trip to Guelph this week was limited to a few hours on the University of Guelph campus.
“In the summers I work up in Kingston,” he said. “I love it up there in Kingston and ever since I committed to Queen’s, I went there and I started working. I love the city, but I get home as much as I can. It’s usually the holidays, easter and Christmas and stuff like that.
“I get home every once in a while, but not as often as I probably should.”
And what’s his plans for his future in hockey?
“Who knows? We’ll see,” he answered. “I’ll play out my years here and we’ll go from there. Maybe I’ll try playing some pro hockey, otherwise I might want to give coaching a try. I’ve always taken an interest and tried to learn as much as I can everywhere from every coach I’ve ever had. It’s one of those things that who knows. It’s hard to say down the road. We’ll see where I’m at academically and what options are out there for pro hockey, if there is any. We’ll see what options there are in the work world. It’s a couple of years down the road and hopefully I’ll get to play at least a year or two of pro hockey.”
There’ll likely be a chance to play pro hockey in Europe.
“That’s the thing. For me it would be just to get the experience, even if it was for just one season,” he said. “Go play in Italy and make minimum dollars and just to live in a different country and get to see a different culture and stuff like that. I’d definitely give that a try if I had that opportunity.”