By Matt Mackinder
After the Chicago Hitmen organization folded following the 2011-12 season, forward Nick Gnagni was left without a place to play for the 2012-13 season.
It didn’t take long for the 19-year-old Chicago-area native to find a home, though.
“I had a few options, but after talking with (Flint scout) Doug Bailey and (head coach) Steve Howard, I made my decision and came to Flint to play,” said Gnagni. “All my teammates are great and we all gel really well together. We are turning into a family.”
With the Hitmen, Gnagni was second in team scoring with 20 goals and 40 points. This season in Flint, he has 12 points through 11 games.
“I would have to consider myself a playmaker,” Gnagni said. “I like to set my teammates up with goals and I think I see the ice pretty well. Flint is a blue collar-type town and I think our team reflects that. We pride ourselves on hard work, dedication, and effort. We are always trying to better ourselves and one another.”
When asked to compare Flint to Chicago in terms of hockey, Gnagni gave a rather surprising answer.
“I would say Flint is more of a hockey town than Chicago,” said Gnagni. “There seems to be more support from the community here than in Chicago and I think a lot of that in Flint starts with team ownership. The Cronks have done an amazing job with the organization. We have our own bus for road trips. We get hot meals on the road and the hotels are very nice. We have our own locker room.
“They take care of us like we are some of their own.”
Gnagni feels the Jr. Generals have a solid team this year and like the old adage, team success can breed personal success and that’s always on Gnagni’s mind.
“I hope I can be a leader on the team, maybe be among the league leaders in points, help my team reach the playoffs and play for a chance at the Hurster Cup,” said Gnagni. “I would like to be able to play at the next level of hockey, whether that’s a higher tier of juniors or college hockey, and get an education.”
If Gnagni can do that, he’ll join an ever-evolving list of Jr. Generals who used the league as a springboard to higher levels of hockey.