CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — A native of Calgary, Alberta, Neil Graham was around hockey from a young age. As a player and eventually coach, his career took him all around.
Starting to play at the lower levels near home in western Canada, Graham attended Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania where he played for four years.
After that, it was more hockey and this time in the southeast. Graham played for the Augusta Riverhawks of the Southern Professional Hockey League and South Carolina Stingrays and Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL.
“The first time I tried alligator, maybe,” Graham joked when asked about a unique experience on a road trip in Louisiana. “It was [good]. It was like chicken.”
The well-traveled Graham then packed up and moved to Idaho to be a coach for the Idaho Steelheads. But his playing career wasn’t as over as quick as he thought.
“We were short players,” Graham explained about a time he had to sub in to play for the Steelheads. “I was only a year removed. I think I was still 27 in my first year of coaching. So I hopped in and played eight or nine games in a pinch.”
Graham settled down in Boise, Idaho and it felt like home to him and his family. But there was one more move in store with the Texas Stars hiring Graham to Cedar Park.
Now entering his fourth season as the head coach, this is home for the Grahams. And the long journey that molded them is seen as a positive.
“It’s easy to talk about the grind, moving and glass half empty so to speak,” said Graham. “But for me, the life experiences, being a well-balanced individual. Seeing how some people live in some areas compared to others. Just different surroundings, I think that kind of rounds you out as a person and hopefully a coach.”
Graham and the Stars open the AHL season Friday, Oct. 14 when they host the Colorado Eagles.