In Calgary for a training-camp tryout, rugged rearguard Eric Gryba didn’t pack all the tools of his other trade.
So when his former — and hopefully future — teammate Milan Lucic pitched the idea of a Friday night feast, Gryba had some shopping to do.
“I brought Looch a bunch of beef from Saskatchewan, and he’s having me over,” Gryba grinned. “So I went and picked up a sous vide cooker this morning, and I’m going to cook for him and his wife Britt and their kids. It’ll be awesome.”
It’s not often the guest gets free rein of the kitchen.
Then again, it’s not often an NHLer has his own cooking show and a list of mouthwatering recipes — OMG Goose Legs, anybody? — on his personal website.
Gryba describes himself humbly as a “wannabe grill-master,” but the folks at Wild TV would disagree. Already with a following of foodies on his Instagram account, higher-ups at the network offered the avid hunter and fisherman an opportunity to show off his culinary skills on camera.
The first season of Grilling with Gryba featured everything from venison jerky to breaded walleye to a wild turkey hunt.
“The outdoors and cooking are both passions of mine, and they kind of came together when I was approached to do my own TV show,” said Gryba, who hails from Saskatoon and has so far made NHL stops in Ottawa, Edmonton and New Jersey. “It definitely all came naturally for me, and it’s something that I can have fun with during the off-season. I finished all my filming now for Season 2 and it will be airing, I think, in late January.”
So what’s on the menu for the upcoming episodes?=
“There’s a bear, there’s a couple of turkeys, some snow geese and a wild boar,” Gryba revealed. “And then there are some other just normal food recipes too, so it’s not all wild game. There’s a broad spectrum of stuff.”
His current focus is finding the recipe for success as one of a half-dozen PTO invitees at Calgary’s camp.
Gryba, a big dude at 6-foot-4 and 225 lb., wasn’t in the lineup for either of Monday’s split-squad dates against the Vancouver Canucks, the first opportunity for the Flames’ hopefuls to offer a taste of what they can provide against a real opponent. (The results? One of each. Johnny Gaudreau, Mark Giordano & Co. were on the wrong end of a 3-2 overtime loss at the Saddledome, while Austin Czarnik tallied twice in a 4-3 victory in Victoria.)
The 31-year-old Gryba likely isn’t a candidate for an opening-night gig — so far, he has been grouped with the prospects, projects and long-shots — but Flames general manager Brad Treliving has repeated countless times that he thinks an organization needs to be 10-deep on defence.
Despite being limited to just 10 appearances last winter with the New Jersey Devils, this stay-at-home sort brings plenty of been-there and done-that at the big-league level. Gryba’s career stat-sheet shows seven goals, 43 points and 368 penalty minutes in 289 NHL outings.
If he can turn this audition into a two-way contract offer, he could be provide leadership, toughness and home-cooked meals for the Flames’ farm-clubbers in Stockton, Calif., while offering a right-handed insurance policy in case of injuries in Cowtown.
“Calgary is obviously a team that is on the up and up. They had such a great season last year, fell a little short in the playoffs, but a team that has a lot of potential,” Gryba said. “I’m trying to come in, impress as much as possible, and be a real solid depth guy for them. You don’t want to go to teams that are struggling, especially as an older guy. If you’re a depth guy, they’re just looking to develop their younger guys in those spots. But if a team is winning and they need a guy to fill a spot, well, chances are they are going to fill it with the best guy possible or the most veteran guy possible.
“And to tell you the truth, I’m kind of sick of losing, to put it frankly. I mean, it’s been a few years now of being on losing teams, and Calgary is as good a bet to be a winning team as any. They have a great team in the American League, as well, and a great team in the National League. So to me, it seems like a good fit.
“On the ice and in the locker-room, I think I have a lot to contribute.”
That could be an appetizing combo.
“My specialty? Oh jeez,” Gryba said, repeating the question. “This is going to sound simple, but I’m getting pretty good at steaks. There is an actual art to getting a perfectly cooked steaks. I’m always dabbling. Now I’m into charcoal and using sous vide cookers and smoking ribs and smoking cheese and all different stuff.
“Once I get something (perfected), I never cook that unless I’m having people over. Because I know it’s good. I’m always working on something else at home.”
Ice chips: The Flames have returned a hat-trick of teenage prospects to their junior clubs. Dmitry Zavgorodniy, a 19-year-old left-winger who clanked the post during Monday’s victory in Victoria, will rejoin the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic. Meanwhile, netminder Dustin Wolf (Everett Silvertips) and centre Milos Roman (Vancouver Giants) will spend this season in the WHL.