Off of the ice, 19-year-old Anthony Del Gaizo wouldn’t necessarily intimidate you. He’s strong, but not jacked. He’s well-spoken, but certainly not loud. He stands 5-foot-11, so doesn’t tower over you.
But on the ice, he’s as intimidating an opponent as any in the USHL.
“That’s why UMass recruited me, that’s why I’m in Muskegon- to be hard to play against,” said Del Gaizo. “I have friends on other teams who tell me they hate when they’re lined up against me, and I like that.”
Del Gaizo, born in 1998, is a veteran of 97 USHL games, more than any other returning Lumberjack. In his third year in Muskegon, he’ll be among the Jacks’ leaders in the locker room.
“He’s our undoubted leader,” said head coach John LaFontaine. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a season where it’s more obvious who the leader is. Anthony brings heart and soul. He plays hard every shift, plays hard every practice, hates to lose, and demands a lot from everyone around him. He’ll make everybody else toe the line, work hard and get better.”
“I don’t think I should do anything different,” said Del Gaizo. “When someone tries to force being a leader, everyone can smell it, they can sense it. It’s just gotta be natural for you, if you can do it, people will look to you to lead them. If not, it’s no big deal. It’s not something I focus on.”
Instead, Anthony focused on an offseason regimen that was geared toward making the 200-pound forward faster, stronger, and even tougher to play against.
“Working out and skating as much as possible,” said Anthony. “I didn’t reinvent the wheel, I just found my routine. Being consistent is a good thing, being on a schedule like we are in Muskegon is good.”
Anthony finished last season with 24 points, the most of any returning Jack. His summer workout partner finished last season with 23, and the two happen to be fairly competitive. After all, brothers tend to be.
“Yeah, [Marc and I] always work out together,” said Anthony of his younger brother. “If he wants to go to the gym, I’ll go to the gym and vice versa. It’s a good way to push each other.”
According to Anthony, his two-year age advantage puts him out of Marc’s league in the weight room, but Anthony sees Marc as a big weapon this season for the Jacks.
“Marc and [defenseman Colby] Bukes on the back end are huge for us,” said Anthony. “They’re two of the premier guys in the league, they’re both going to have really good seasons.”
But Marc and Colby weren’t the only players who caught Anthony’s eye during spring camp.
“Emilio [Pettersen] obviously is a huge pickup for us.” He’s really skilled and I think he’ll score a lot of goals for us this year. [Defenseman Michael] Mannara also had a good camp, he’s pretty tough.”
“Up front, we have a lot of guys who haven’t really gotten their opportunity yet,” said Del Gaizo. “Emilio was young last year, [Michael] Graham got hurt, Wyatt Bongiovanni, Monte [Graham], they’ve all been in situations where they haven’t really been in the spotlight. I could see all of them having really big years.”
While Anthony spent a fair share of his summer on the beaches near his home in New Jersey, things weren’t all fun and games when ‘Ant’ wasn’t in the gym. And of course, given the opportunity, he lets a chirp or two fly.
“I did a little bit more work than Marc, he didn’t work this summer,” said Anthony. “So I made a little cash. I work for my dad, it’s a dry-cleaning company that focuses on restoration. Marc doesn’t like to do it, it’s a little too hard. He’ll even admit to it.”
Anthony even brings his hard hat and lunch pail to the dry cleaner’s.