Photo by Hickling Images
Tri-City Storm forward Wyatt Bongiovanni learned the value of hard work at an early age. Bongiovanni was born into a family of restauranteurs whose culinary businesses span from Michigan to Florida. One of the newest ventures for the Bongiovanni family is called O.W.L., located in Detroit, just 20 miles from his hometown of Birmingham, MI.
Bongiovanni was thrown into the family business at a young age, but reflects fondly on the life lessons learned while pitching in.
“My entire family has always been restaurant people,” Bongiovanni said. “My grandpa lives in Florida, he owns a diner. My dad’s dad owns a number of Italian restaurants, and bar and grills. So I grew up having a lot to choose from.”
The Birmingham native’s hard work is paying off in his first season with the Storm. The first year NHL Draft-eligible forward has 14 points (3G, 11A) in his first 19 games with Tri-City after spending last season with the Des Moines Buccaneers. He credits a fresh start this season to his increased production.
“Extremely important,” Bongiovanni said. “I don’t know if I had the best season I could’ve had last year. To have this fresh start with a great new organization, it’s been really special. I think we’re off to a pretty good start. It’s the start of something new, and I’m enjoying it.”
This is Bongiovanni’s second season in the USHL. As he pointed out himself, Bongiovanni has always had the tools and work ethic to be successful, and the results are speaking for themselves through the first quarter of the 2016-17 season. He talked about the difference from year one in the League to year two, and he said he still has plenty he wants to accomplish in his junior hockey career.
His culinary upbringing isn’t the only thing unique to Bongiovanni. Despite going third overall in the 2015 USHL Draft following a successful season with Honeybaked, Bongiovanni decided not to commit to a Division I program early in his junior hockey career.
“I’m an open book. I haven’t rushed any decisions on that and I’m taking my time with it,” said Bongiovanni. “It’s all preference. I felt the need to take it all in and I think I still have a lot to prove. You’re choosing the place you’re going to be for the next four years potentially and I just see that as a very important decision.”
Bongiovanni joked that no schools have pitched him with a culinary degree yet, but that someone may after this article is published. As for an actual appetite for the family business, he sees himself on the management side of operations focusing on things like marketing versus actual cooking.
Reflecting on all of the time his parents invested not only into their restaurants, but also on their son’s hockey career is enough motivation to prove himself this season.
“I have all the same qualities that I do now, but I think in the offseason I improved a lot and enhanced those qualities,” said Bongiovanni. “I came ready to play this year. I’m looking to improve every day and improve every game.”
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 15th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2016-17. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in four consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.