Aiden Grieco’s hockey journey began over 530 miles away from Athens in Montvale, New Jersey.
Grieco lived in Montvale his entire life. It’s like any other ordinary small town in New Jersey, but Grieco smiled when he reflected on his time growing up there.
“(Montvale) is really nice and pretty,” Grieco said. “I have a good time there.”
Located in northeastern New Jersey right on the state border, Montvale is barely an hour’s drive from New York City. Grieco spent most of his youth with his friends enjoying the large urban space as any young student would. In particular, he remembers attending baseball and hockey games in the Big Apple.
Of course, athletics were a big part of Grieco’s youth. Aside from loving the New Jersey Devils, he’s also a diehard Yankees and Giants fan. His love for hockey, however, began after he started ice skating when he was four years old.
Grieco played hockey at the high school level from 2015-2019 at Saint Joseph Regional High School, a private school in Montvale. Saint Joseph doesn’t have many students but they all share a deep bond with one another. This bond extends itself into support for the school’s hockey team. The Green Knights’ hockey team has had historical success with four state championship victories and Gordon Conference Cup titles in 1986, 1990 and 1992.
Even if high school hockey doesn’t have quite the same reputation as club hockey in New Jersey, students at St. Joseph still gathered around the Green Knights during games, sometimes seeing crowds of over 600 people at Ice Vault Arena.
“You have a lot of support,” Grieco said. “I really enjoyed playing there. It was fun.”
Grieco simultaneously played hockey for the New Jersey Devils youth team and the New Jersey Hitmen AAA club. Club hockey gave him experience against more skilled players from different parts of the country. In comparison, Grieco was usually only able to play against kids from the New Jersey and New York area when he played with St. Joseph.
“High school hockey is just more condensed,” Grieco said. “With club hockey, you’re able to spread out and see everyone from all around the country.”
Some of Grieco’s favorite hockey memories come from his tenure with the Hitmen. He met many of his best friends on the team, and he still looks back fondly on his four year tenure there.
Grieco has known about Athens his entire life. His father attended Ohio University before him and his brother is currently a student. He had also heard great things about Ohio’s hockey program, so he already had his foot in the door.
“I knew they had a really good hockey team and great school,” Grieco said. “I just thought it was a perfect fit.”
Grieco is able to delve into a different lifestyle in Athens. At Ohio, he is more isolated from an urban setting and gets a college town experience that might’ve been lost to him in Montvale. Grieco sees plenty of similarities between Athens and Montvale. Both have a tight-knit student body that is fanatical about its hockey team.
Whether he’s in quiet, rural Athens or suburban New Jersey, Grieco knows he will always feel at home.