EAU CLAIRE (WEAU)- Eau Claire Memorial hockey standout Charley Graaskamp's high school career came to an end last Friday when the Old Abes senior signed a contract with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League. Graaskamp, who will also lose his NCAA eligibility, needed to make a decision now because the Greyhounds had to submit their post-season roster by Monday.
In pursuing his lifelong dream to play professional hockey, Charley leaves a Memorial team just a week before the start of the WIAA playoffs. Graaskamp will be greatly missed from a team that has hopes of defending last year's state championship. Charley was the playmaker on the Old Abes with 112 career assists. He says leaving Memorial was a gut-wrenching decision, "The hardest decision I ever had to make, you have to leave guys that you grew up playing with and have been at your side during all the ups and downs. And there's nothing else that I can describe this as but tough, leaving those guys obviously, it kills you. There are different routes for different guys, this certainly is not a conventional one. And you just need to do what's best for you, and we feel with all the feedback that we have gotten that this is the right one."
Meanwhile, Graaskamp's former Memorial coaches and teammates
were back on the ice Monday afternoon preparing for Tuesday's showdown with Rice Lake that will decide the Big Rivers conference championship. The Old Abes know the road just got more difficult in trying to defend their state championship but for Charley's linemate and friend Jake Bresser and head coach Mike Schwengler, they support his decision and must move forward.
Says Coach Schwengler, "We found out on Friday, it's first that anybody knew about it. He met with the team and then met with me afterwards to let us know his decision and what he was going to do. We had practice yesterday and talked about it for 10 minutes. Get it out in the open with the team, and move on and tomorrow we have Rice Lake, and that's all where our focus is."
Adds Bresser, "That's definitely is tough for him, but for us as well. Seeing such a great teammate, and great friend leave like that is tough to do but Graaskamp is doing what he needs to do and we respect how he told us, face-to-face and he did it in a very manly way and I'm going to support him in his next career and hopefully he makes it on."