By Gaelen Morse
BU News Service
For the first time since 1994, the National Hockey League will not allow its players to take part in the Winter Olympic Games. For better or worse, this leaves the ice open to players outside of the NHL, including Boston University’s Jordan Greenway, who is set to play on the Olympic stage in Pyeongchang, South Korea this February.
Greenway will be the first black player to represent U.S. hockey in the Olympic games since the debut of Olympic men’s ice hockey in 1920. It is a significant moment for the United States in international hockey competitions and for Greenway himself.
“To be honest, I just kind of see it as another hockey player going to play over in South Korea,” said Greenway.
But the historical context is not lost on Jordan. Not only does he want to be a part of team USA and take home a medal, he said, he wants this to be a moment others can look up to.
“I hope that a lot of other kids—African American kids—will be able to go out of their comfort zone, and you know, the typical kind of stereotype,” Greenway said. “I just hope that I can inspire and motivate them to one day want to do the same thing and go out and try something different.”
Originally from Canton, New York, Greenway has spent the majority of his life playing hockey. As a teenager, he left home for Minnesota where he played for Shattuck Saint Mary’s, a private boarding school known for its hockey program. He would go on to spend 11th and 12th grade in Michigan, closer, but still some distance from home.
The elite program and experienced coaching staff at Boston University, along with the urban setting of the campus, was a major factor in his choice to play for the Terriers as a college athlete and study psychology as a student, Greenway said. But home also factored into his decision to come to Boston after spending so much time far from Canton.
“I was in the Midwest for a lot when I was younger, you know,” Greenway said. “I wanted to come a little bit closer to home in New York, and even though it’s still six hours away, [Boston] is a little bit closer.
Even before Greenway became a powerhouse on Commonwealth Avenue, he was drafted by the Minnesota Wild, 50th overall in the 2015 NHL entry draft. That fall, during his freshman year at BU, Greenway registered five goals, 26 points and lead all freshman forwards in assists with 21 by the end of the 2015-16 season.
He doubled his scoring output the next season with ten goals and registered 21 assists again for a total of 31 points.
This season, his point totals will likely be lower due to the Olympic break, and his play will surely be missed by the team. But there is not a shred of doubt among them that Greenway has earned his moment on Olympic ice.
“My teammates have been great. It’s been a special time here with all of them and that’s a big part of why I’m still here,” Greenway said.
Many wondered if he would return to collegiate play after last season or choose to enter the NHL. Greenway said he realized that, in order to get the opportunity to play in the Olympics, he would have to stay with BU.
Beyond a possible Olympic dream come true, coming back to play for Coach Quinn as a Terrier had other draws. BU is known for its hockey program and player development.
“I just want to make sure I can go to the next level and have a big impact,” Greenway said. “I don’t want to just go and kind of blend in. I really want to go and be a force in the NHL, and whether it takes two years, three years or four years to do that here, I’m willing to do it.”
Despite the skill level of players like Greenway on the BU roster, the Terriers’ season started off fairly subpar.
However, Greenway ended the fall semester with his first collegiate hat trick in a 9-3 win over UMass Lowell. Shortly after, he was also notified that he had been named to the U.S. Olympic roster and he was able to share these achievements with his family while home for winter break.
“They knew what I was going through. I was kind of putting a lot of pressure on myself,” Greenway said of his family. “It was a lot of excitement. My mom was really excited. My brother, too. It was good to be able to share the experience with them.”
Though Greenway stands 6’ 6” and weighs around 230 lbs., he isn’t the loudest person in the room. His stature isn’t intimidating off of the ice.
Still, as a forward in the NCAA—whether standing in the slot, shielding the puck or on special teams—he is a force to be reckoned with.
But it’s more than his skill that got him named to the Olympic team. It’s also how he carries himself on and off of the ice.
“The character of the player went into a lot of it,” said U.S. head coach Tony Granato in a press conference. “We love the college kids that we have. We think they’re all having great years. They’ll add a big part to our team energy wise and skill wise.”
U.S team general manager Jim Johansson and Coach Granato, along with other staff involved with the team, have put together a group that likely has the ability to match any other team stride-for-stride. The decision by the NHL to withdraw its players has sealed no team’s fate in the Olympics.
Of course, experience in international play is something closely looked at while scouting the Olympic roster. Greenway is no stranger to playing outside the U.S.
At 20 years old, he has competed in numerous international tournaments, including winning gold with the 2015 U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team and again with the 2017 U.S. National Junior Team.
In 2017, Greenway shared the World Junior championship with five other Boston University players and others from around the NCAA Division 1 league. One other player is also a member of the U.S. Olympics team: Troy Terry, from Denver University, who scored the game winning shoot-out goals against both Russia in the semi-final and Canada in the gold medal round.
In addition to Greenway, three BU hockey alum will be taking part in the winter games. Chris Bourque (2004-05), Matt Gilroy (2005-09) and John McCarthy (2005-09) are also on the U.S. team roster.
“We have a great bunch of guys,” said U.S. team captain Brian Gionta in a press conference. “I love the hunger of our team. I like our team makeup and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to go over there with this bunch of guys.”
This isn’t the first Olympics in which collegiate hockey players will partly make up the U.S. team. It also it isn’t the first time BU affiliated players will take part in the games.
The United States’ 1980 Olympic gold medal win in ice hockey—which included the win over the Soviet team famously called the ‘Miracle on Ice’—was accomplished mostly by a group of skilled college level players. Four of those players were products of the BU hockey program.
Nevertheless, with no NHL players in the Olympics, emphasis will be placed on how teams compete without the most well-known players. The 2018 U.S. team has brought together Americans from professional leagues other than the NHL and young, talented college players such as Jordan Greenway. The team features Olympic veterans, seasoned professionals and players who have only begun their path towards a professional hockey career—but have now become Olympians along the way.
“I don’t really think it’s hit me yet, like it will in the future,” Greenway said. “I’m just happy I’m going to be able to go over there and come back with a gold medal.”