Sitting in the stands at the Orleans Arena in 2003 watching his cousin Marc Magliarditi play goalie for the Wranglers, Centennial High School graduate Eddie DelGrosso's future was wide open.
"It was awesome to see him here playing pro hockey," DelGrosso said. "It kind of lets you know it's not out of your reach to do it if you work hard enough."
DelGrosso, a defenseman who joined the Wranglers in December, is the first Las Vegas local to play full-time for the city's ECHL franchise.
"Your goal is to play at the highest level possible, but playing for the Wranglers, in the back of my mind, was something I wanted to do," said DelGrosso, who has five points in 14 games for Las Vegas (22-10-3), which beat the Alaska Aces (21-13-2) 5-2 Sunday at the Orleans Arena. "It doesn't get better than playing at home in front of the people you care about."
DelGrosso, who has a huge extended family here, was born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., and moved to Las Vegas when he was 6.
He played youth hockey at Santa Fe Station and also worked in the pro shop there until he graduated from Centennial in 2003, when he left town to play in the United States Hockey League.
After finishing his fourth season at the University of Nebraska-Omaha last year, DelGrosso turned pro, scoring two points in eight games for the American Hockey League's Springfield Falcons.
He accepted an offer to play in Finland last summer, but after seeing little ice time, decided to head home to Las Vegas.
"I had to go somewhere where I'd get a chance to play," DelGrosso, 25, said.
Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel -- who had stayed in touch with DelGrosso through local coach Rob Pallin -- was happy to oblige.
"He's a phenomenal kid and a really good player," Mougenel said. "He's really changed our outlook on the back end. He's an offensive kid with a defensive upside.
"Once he thinks about defense first and then goes the other way, he's going to be in the (AHL) 100 percent."
DelGrosso is one of three local players, along with forwards Adam Naglich and Chris Francis, who've recently turned pro. And Jason Zucker is expected to become the first Las Vegas native to play in the NHL.
The Denver University forward was a second-round pick of the Minnesota Wild in last year's NHL draft.
"The talent that's coming out of here is world class," Mougenel said. "I'm a big believer in minor hockey here."
Francis is splitting time in his rookie year between Springfield (AHL) and Fort Wayne of the Central Hockey League.
Naglich, DelGrosso's longtime teammate in Las Vegas, is in his second season with the ECHL's Bakersfield Condors, who will start a three-game series against the Wranglers here on Friday.
"It's kind of crazy how a little hockey community has got some good guys coming out of it," said DelGrosso, who is treasuring his time back home.
"I'm having fun being back here. It's a lot easier mentally being back at home with my family," he said. "I don't mind having my mom cook me dinner."
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com or 702-383-0354.