Joe knows how to drive a team crazy

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:53 AM ET

It didn't take long for Joe Grimaldi to earn a reputation in the Ontario Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Ottawa 67's defenceman has become one of the league's premier pests.

"You see a little bit of everybody in him," said Ottawa coach and GM Brian Kilrea. "But he can be an agitator and get somebody on the other team upset."

In that light, Grimaldi is trying to become the 67's version of Chris Chelios or Ken Linseman.

Less than a month after being acquired at the trade deadline, he was the main reason the 67's and Saginaw Spirit got into a last-minute brawl at the Civic Centre.

The Spirit were out for revenge for a hit Grimaldi put on captain Patrick McNeill last month in Saginaw. So when the Spirit came to Ottawa last week, they tried to get even in the final minute.

McNeill charged Grimaldi in front of the penalty boxes, but the Ottawa defenceman dropped the Saginaw captain with a right cross, touching off a full-scale melee.

It seems that in every game, a player from the opposing team is trying to get at Grimaldi after a whistle.

"Even in Kingston the other night, he got a couple of guys pretty upset," said Kilrea. "He takes a few penalties, but he draws a few penalties, too."

Kilrea didn't know much about Grimaldi when he sent a sixth-round pick in May's OHL draft to Windsor for him.

Grimaldi, the lone American on the 67's roster, had completed his first season of NCAA hockey with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, but felt in his second year that playing in the OHL would increase his chances of being noticed by pro scouts.

"I was told by a couple of guys in the league if we could get him, we should get him," said Kilrea. "They were right. It's worked out great, and he's good."

Not only is Grimaldi a pest, but he has displayed a scoring touch.

He scored the winning goal in his first OHL game last month in Toronto, and got his first multi-goal game with two markers during an otherwise dismal 10-4 loss last Tuesday in Kingston.

"I've been telling some of the scouts that they should keep their eye on him because we think he's a guy that will eventually play at a higher level," said Kilrea.

With the 67's close to clinching a spot in the playoffs, having Grimaldi in the lineup could help the club in the post-season because of his scoring touch and his ability to throw an opponent off his game with that pesky style.

"It's nice to have a guy for a change who can go out there and get players on the other team upset," said Kilrea.

"For the most part, it's been the other way around for us."

GREAT GESTURE: Kudos to the Kitchener Rangers for their efforts in raising $3,025 for the Sebastien Savage Fund. The club held a live auction during a recent game in Kitchener. Up for bids were autographed and game-worn jerseys of G Dan Turple and former star Mike Richards. Rangers captain and Gloucester native Mark Fraser will present 67's owner Jeff Hunt with a cheque during a ceremony prior to this afternoon's game at the Civic Centre.

WINDS(OR) OF CHANGE: Big news in the OHL this week with the purchase of the Windsor Spitfires by NHLer Bob Boughner and ex-player Warren Rychel. The move is being viewed as a godsend by Windsor fans who had long been hoping for long-time owner Steve Riolo to sell the club to new blood. Now they're hoping for a turnaround to the franchise similar to the one here when Hunt took over the 67's.

IN THE CREASE: Former Olympiques assistant coach John Chabot has been named the new bench boss of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, where he'll work with Leo-Guy Morrissette, a good pal of Sun sports scribe Don Brennan ... This afternoon's 67's game begins at 3 p.m., one hour later than the usual Sunday afternoon start time of 2 p.m., to accommodate Sportsnet's broadcast of the match ... Orleans native and Kingston Frontenacs G Danny Taylor made 41 saves for his second shutout of the year during a 2-0 win over Kitchener on Friday.

barre.campbell@ott.sunpub.com


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