By Maggie Thach
The Salt Lake Tribune
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – Hockey has taken D.J. Jelitto all over North America – to Michigan, Nebraska and Ontario, Canada – but it also has taken him back home to West Valley City.
Jelitto is in his second season with the Utah Grizzlies, who open their ECHL season Friday at Phoenix. And after traveling for the past three years, he has regained some of his passion.
“I kind of got burned out in my last year of juniors,” Jelitto said. “Things were just monotonous, but I wasn’t burned out on the team or anything. It was just me playing hockey. But, I thought, it’s going to end and I just need to stick it out. I’m glad I did.”
After all, he didn’t want to think that he gave up going to school just to quit hockey in the end. After graduating from Hunter in 2002, Jelitto enrolled at the University of Utah on an academic scholarship. He was interested in majoring in forestry or marine biology.
But Utah couldn’t offer the same opportunities in hockey as in academics. So Jelitto made a choice. He gave up his scholarship and he chose hockey.
“I took that opportunity because I could always go back to school,” he said. “I just need to push as hard as I can. I don’t regret it. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here right now.”
When he left Utah, Jelitto went to Ontario to play junior hockey. He played half a year in Sarnia, then went to Saginaw, Mich., to finish out the season.
Afterward, he played in Sault Ste. Marie, also in Ontario, then was sent to Nebraska to play for the Omaha Lancers.
Jelitto came back the summer after playing in Omaha not knowing where he would play next. He made plans to go to Holland, where he knew he would get playing time, but a phone call from Grizzlies coach Jason Christie changed his mind.