Defenceman John Gruden hoped to impress the Ottawa Senators' brass at the team's 2001 training camp. A career minor leaguer since turning pro in 1994, his game was based on playmaking ability and a good shot from the point.
Born in Virginia, Minnesota, Gruden was taken 168th overall by the Boston Bruins in 1990 following a fine year with the USHL's Waterloo Hawks. He then spent four years at Ferris State University where he was a CCHA first team all-star and NCAA west first all-American in 1994.
Following his senior year, Gruden looked solid during a seven game look with the Bruins. He played 38 games during the Lockout-shortened schedule in 1995 then started the next season in the minors. The talented rearguard was recalled by Boston late in the schedule and looked solid in 14 regular season and three playoff games. By the next season he was unable to land a spot with the team and was a key offensive sparkplug on the AHL's Providence Bruins.
Gruden joined the IHL's Detroit Vipers in 1997-98 to salvage his career. He ended up being named to the league's second all-star team after scoring 55 points and was signed as a free agent by the Ottawa Senators. He spent most of the next two years in the minors since the Sens were blessed with a number of good young defencemen. Gruden looked solid in 22 games with Ottawa spread over two seasons. A training camp injury cost him most of the 2000-01 season but he worked diligently to recover.
In 2001-02, Gruden was a member of the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins and went on to play one more season with the club, before signing as a free-agent with the Berlin Polar Bears in the summer of 2002. After one season overseas, Gruden returned to North America in 2003-04 as a member of the Washington Capitals organization.