Joseph Gambardella’s summer was no holiday.
“I ran six hockey camps this summer. Camps usually start at nine, so I’m usually in the gym at 5:30 every morning trying to get what I need to in first. It was a pretty big investment but definitely worth it,” he said. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have anybody around who had the ability to do that. It’s nice to give back to the community and teach the young and upcoming hockey players.”
Gambardella, 24, is in Edmonton for Oilers rookie camp after spending the summer at home on Staten Island, N.Y. Most days, he’d head west to Somerset, N.J., to work at the camps. Training younger players started as a side project a few years ago.
“I used to have a job in an ice cream store. People heard my name and would ask me to train their sons,” he recalled. “I studied up on it. I started training two or three kids a summer, just to put some knowledge into the kids about what to expect when they get older.”
Last summer, he opened a hockey performance company called Stride 2 Greatness. Two training rinks are named after him at Protec Ponds Ice Center in Somerset.
“It’s a really great facility. It’s a great youth hockey organization that’s trying to build kids up and make them triple-A hockey players,” Gambardella explained.
The left-shot forward is also building his own career. After four years in the NCAA with U-Mass Lowell, where he earned a degree in Business Management and Marketing, Gambardella played for the Oilers AHL team in Bakersfield, Calif. last season.
He had 19 points in 50 games and said he tried to prove himself as a player who could be counted on in all situations.
“That’s my game ever since I was kid. I try to establish that and develop that early in every organization I’ve been a part of,” said Gambardella.
“I know in talking with the coaching staff in Bakersfield, Cali. last year that he was an impressive guy,” Condors head coach Jay Woodcroft said. “He came to the rink to work every day and was a professional. He saw some real results toward the end of the year. I think that ‘Swiss Army Knife’ label is a good one for him.”
On Friday’s first practice of rookie camp, Gambardella was on what should team the rookie team’s top scoring line along with Kailer Yamamoto and Cooper Marody. The Oilers rookies will play the Flames rookies Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. Coverage on 630 CHED will start at 1:30 p.m.
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