On The Couch With Craig: Grant Lyon
The latest in a series of profiles of AZ Coyotes Insider founding members
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Grant Lyon’s Phoenix hockey roots run deep. He has played every variety of the game in his Valley tenure, he has watched every pro and Division I team play live that the city has had to offer (Roadrunners, Mustangs, Coyotes, Sun Devils), and man, does he love talking goaltending.
He’ll talk goalie gear. He’ll talk goalies (from any era) and when it comes to dissecting the position, he gives AZ Coyotes Insider subscriber and old pal Cat Silverman a run for her money.
Come to think of it, I should probably do a goalie roundtable with the two of them at some point, but I digress.
Grant is the 12th founding member to be featured in my On The Couch With Craig segment. Grant, you have the floor.
Full Name: Grant Lyon
Twitter account: @grantlyon31
Birthplace: Annapolis, Maryland
Current city of residence: Scottsdale, Arizona
Arizona history: I grew up here before moving away to college in 2006, but have lived in Arizona since 2013 after moving back home.
Occupation: Certified Financial Planner
Hobbies: Golf, guitar and piano
Little known fact about you: I once had to face Ray Whitney, Shane Doan and Zbyněk Michálek in a shootout in a men’s league game and stopped two of the three (Doan scored on me).
How did you start playing hockey and then goaltender?
My father grew up playing hockey, so he got me on skates at a very young age. Inline hockey was becoming popular when I was starting up, so that's actually what I played first, and we watched a ton of Roller Hockey International and Pro Beach Hockey games.
My father took me to the now closed Arizona Sports Ranch in north Phoenix and Casey At The Bat and I originally played forward for my mite team at the rink. I played forward for a couple of seasons and really was not that good, but one day the goalie for our team just decided to stop showing up. I vividly remember the coach standing on the bench with all of us asking who could go into the net and play. I was the only one that raised my hand. The people at the rink strapped on a pair of Franklin goalie pads and gave me a glove, blocker and a stick and off I went. The rest as they say is history!
After I started playing goalie in inline hockey, my father could tell I really enjoyed it, so he sent me to a Behind The Mask inline goalie camp that was run by (AZ Coyotes Insider founding member) Randy Exelby. It was there that I learned how to truly play the position. I learned from Randy but I also learned from Phoenix Roadrunners and Mustangs goalie David Goverde. I remember all the inline camps like it was yesterday. And boy was it hot during the summer in the goalie gear.
After a few years of inline, my father found out about a Sunday morning skate that was being run by local hockey coaching legend Brad Bayer at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The skate happened at 6 a.m. every Sunday, and I remember my father bought me ice skates, we drove down to the Coliseum and he helped tie my skates. Then he went up into the stands and said "have fun!"
I didn't know how to ice skate, so I remember walking out onto the rink and immediately falling down like Bambi. I remember looking up in the stands at my father and he just smiled and encouraged me to get back up and keep trying. After that, I started going to that skate every week, and it was fun to compete against older players and try to play goalie. On the weekends, my dad would take me to the Roadrunner and Mustangs games and we would sit behind the net and watch Jamie Storr, Goverde, Byron Dafoe, the list goes on and on. I loved watching the goalies, and I loved the goalie gear.
As I grew older, I started to attend the Behind The Mask ice hockey goalie camps, and they really helped grow and develop my game. The camps were a week long, but in those days, Randy would run camps back to back for three weeks. My father signed me up for every camp because I loved going and learning the game and I lived at Oceanside Ice Arena during the hot summers. Randy made me a better skater and I learned a lot from all of the instructors and it was around that time that I made my first travel team, pee wee A for the Jr. Coyotes.
Over the years, I played for a variety of different travel teams but my last team in Arizona was a lifetime goal, playing for Kurt Goar and his U18 Midget AAA team at Desert Youth Hockey Association for the Firebirds. Kurt was a great coach and we had a really great team. A lot of players went on to play junior and college, so it definitely pushed me to be the best that I could be. I have maintained lifelong friendships with a lot of the players on that team. The careers range from airline pilot to NHL player agent and it's fun to see everyone go through life and raise kids.
After I graduated from high school, I had a choice to either play junior hockey or go straight to college. Although junior hockey would have been amazing, I didn't think I was good enough to have a starting job, so I decided to go to college and I attended Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. Grand Valley was a small school, but they had a hockey team with a beautiful rink and locker room close to campus that competed at the ACHA Division II level. It ended up being a great decision, because I won the starting goalie job as a sophomore and all five years I played for the team, we went to the national tournament and finished in the top 16 in the country.
I also started working privately with goalie coaches during my college years, and they helped big time as I was lucky enough to be recognized as a first team All-American goaltender during my sophomore and senior seasons. My sophomore year, we finished third overall in the country and my senior year, we beat Michigan State 6-1 in the national championship game to win it all. It was pretty easy to retire from the game after going out on top like that!
How did you become a Coyotes/ASU fan?
I became a Coyotes fan because of (former goaltender) Nikolai Khabibulin (I loved his Bauer Reactor 6 gear) and also by going to Phoenix Roadrunners and Phoenix Mustangs games growing up. My father and I loved to go to any hockey game, and when the Coyotes started playing, it was amazing to have an NHL team here in town.
I have fond memories of sitting in the upper deck at America West Arena and watching them play during the Whiteout. I also remember the obstructed view seats and how we loved sitting up there because of how cheap they were.
My wife Jessica never watched hockey growing up, but once we started dating, she got hooked on the game. She loves to listen to Tyson Nash and all of his sayings on TV ("He got it with the fire poker" and "It's like prison rules out here" are two of her favorite sayings). I'm also hoping my daughter Kendall starts to enjoy the game as she gets older. I plan to get her on skates in the next few months here and start to introduce her more to the game.
For ASU Hockey, I became a fan of them because my wife is a Sun Devil, and I loved watching (former Sun Devil and current Ottawa Senators goalie) Joey Daccord up close and personal. More recently, I have become good friends with Eddie Läck who is (ASU’s) volunteer goalie coach, and every Tuesday and Friday night, I play against him in a men's league and have to hear about how many goals he did or will score on me (he claims he will revive his career as a forward). ASU is going to be a premier program, and my wife and I have actually purchased season tickets for the new arena, so we are looking forward to continuing to support them.
Any favorite memories of the Coyotes or ASU?
My favorite Coyotes memory is when they beat Chicago in 2012 to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker scoring those OT goals still brings a tear to my eye, and I remember being so excited that the clinching game wasn't too close and I could relax and enjoy every minute. (Goalie) Mike Smith also played out of his mind that series (and playoff run) so I remember just loving watching him play.
For ASU, my favorite memory has been watching the team make it to the NCAA Tournament. (Coach) Greg Powers and the staff have done a tremendous job, and I know the program will win a national championship in the next decade, especially with the new arena. Being able to watch Joey Daccord up close and personal before he made the NHL was also special. With them playing at Oceanside, it was amazing to see how good he truly is. I expect him to have a great NHL career.
What are some of your other interests?
I love to play golf and I love to be a dad. My father taught me the game of golf at a young age, so I really enjoy getting out on the golf course and taking advantage of year-round golf. Raising Kendall and being home with her during the pandemic has been a lot of fun, too. I'm also into playing guitar and piano.
What line of work are you in and why did you choose that field?
I am a Certified Financial Planner for a firm called Brighton Jones and I lead a division of the firm called OpenPlan. OpenPlan helps anyone and everyone that needs help getting a personal retirement financial plan in place. It doesn't matter how much money you have saved up, we just want to help with lowering stress levels and detailing exactly what you need to do to reach vocational freedom (working because you want to, not because you have to).
The great thing about my job is that I get to help people reach goals (buy their first house, save for education for kids, and certainly figure out when they can retire). I really enjoy talking to people, and I like numbers and the stock market, so Brighton Jones/OpenPlan has been a great place to work.
Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter: @CraigSMorgan