The Rhinos have tendered another Michigan defenseman for the 2020-21 NAHL team. Learn more about Griffin Zaske.
Griffin Zaske is a 2003-born defenseman from Milford, MI. With the hopes of playing collegiate hockey, Zaske is committed to furthering his hockey career in any way possible. “My goal is to get to the next level. Do whatever it takes to get there. I want to compete with more skill and older players.” El Paso’s 2021-22 NAHL team will give Griffin that opportunity.
Zaske was recruited by Rhino Associate Head Coach Vinny Bohn who told him that his style of play would fit in with what the defensemen are currently being taught. His interest was also piqued when he was told about the “amazing fan atmosphere.” “[Coach Bohn] said that fans are always at home games and even some away games. The fact that the fans are behind the team… I think it’s cool that they’re willing to drive out and watch their team play.”
On the ice, Griffin’s 6’5″ frame and physicality make the defenseman an intimidating and difficult opponent. “I’m hard to play against in the defensive zone,” he says. “I like to play hard and mean but I can also play offensively when I need to.” With his strength, toughness, and fearlessness, he doesn’t shy away from the physical play—the blue-collar style of play for which the Rhinos are known. He hits frequently and is the first to defend his teammates. Bohn, a former El Paso d-man himself, describes Zaske as “a throwback to an old-school Rhino defenseman for fans to get excited about.” “His skating ability,” Bohn continues, “combined with his defensive game is going to help next year’s team in the South Division. He plays with an edge against opponents, but you would never expect that from speaking with him or his family. We’re really excited for Griffin to join us next season.”
Last year, he played 67 games with Honeybaked 16U and totaled 11 goals and 23 assists for a total of 34 points. This season, he’s on the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 18U AAA roster, and they’ve played 11 games, including one game last week which they won 8-0. Since then, however, their season has been suspended because of COVID related issues. They plan to be back on the ice in three weeks.
Griffin has been focused on simplifying his game this year. “I’m just trying to keep it simple and play my game. Not trying to do anything too crazy.” Because the players on the team are young and some are new, including Griffin, their coach has focused on teambuilding. “I think now we’re one of the tightest teams in the age group this year.”
Prior to the start of hockey season and throughout the additional free time afforded him by COVID quarantine, he took the opportunity wake surf and fish. Where he fishes, he says he mainly catches “bass and some pike, if I’m lucky.” “I’ve got pictures of some pretty good sizes but I don’t know the weights.”
Ten Things with Tender Griffin Zaske
1. Who is your hero? What’s the best advice they’ve given you? Parents, work hard
Without hesitation, Griffin named his parents as his heroes. “Just because of everything they’ve done for me.” He also explained that they have always emphasized having a good work ethic. “Hard work is always the answer. That’s something my dad is really big on. He’s taught me to go in knowing that every practice and game is tryout to get to the next level. You just go out and practice how you play.”
2. If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? Qdoba burrito
Griffin wouldn’t mind if each remaining meal consisted of a Qdoba burrito with rice, steak, shredded cheese, queso and sometimes guac. Although El Paso doesn’t have Qdoba yet, he says Chipotle is “good too.”
3. How would your friends and family describe you? relaxed and easy going
Although he says others recognize him as relaxed and easy going, he admits that’s not characteristic of his playing style. “I’m definitely not like that on the ice,” he chuckled. “On the ice, I’m kinda mean. I play hard. Not nice on the ice.” Video games like NHL or Call of Duty may get his blood boiling too. “If I lose, I might get upset.”
4. Aside from necessities, what one thing could you not go a day without? His dog or his jeep
Griffin wasn’t sure if he could go without his dog or his Jeep. His family got his dog, Ozzie, for Easter. The breeders had already named each dog in the litter after characters and scenes from the Wizard of Oz so the Zaske family stuck with the theme, slightly, and readapted the name to be reminiscent of Chris Osgood, a former Detroit Red Wings goalie. Griffin received his Jeep Wrangler as a birthday present last year. “I love my Jeep.”
5. What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? Parasailing in Turks and Caicos
His family went on a family cruise that included stops in the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos, where they all went scuba diving and parasailing. While enjoying the adrenaline rush of parasailing over the ocean, Griffin captured the moment in a video on his phone. After he posted the clip on social media, a friend text him and pointed out a massive shadow in the water underneath him… Good thing none of the equipment failed that day!
6. What is your favorite childhood memory? Playing in a hockey tournament in Quebec
When he was 10 or 11, he played hockey in Quebec for several weeks. While there, he stayed with a billet family and played in front of thousands of people who attended their games. He also distinctly remembers playing pond hockey at night and sledding with his teammates. “That was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
7. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
“Hopefully, being successful. I couldn’t tell you,” he laughed.
8. Tell a joke.
“How do you wake up Lady Gaga? Poker Face”
9. What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten? Alligator tail
“I tried alligator tail when I was in Florida.” It was an appetizer and the restaurant they went to was famous for the meal. “It tastes like chicken.”
10. What’s the one thing on your bucket list that you want to do most? Skydiving
Griffin hopes to skydive one day. “I’m not really afraid of heights. I think the adrenaline would be cool. It would be cool to have a video of yourself jumping out of a plane too.”
Additional Fun Fact: Griffin has worn the same hockey number, 51, since he was 5 years old.
According to NAHL.com, “A tender is a contract, of sorts, a player signs announcing his intentions to play for that particular NAHL team and that NAHL team only. Once a player signs a tender with an NAHL team, his playing rights belong to that team within the NAHL and he may not be recruited by any other NAHL team. Each team is granted ten (10) tenders – plus or minus any trades – which become active on Nov. 1. Tendered players are not eligible for the NAHL draft.”