St. John’s native and Ottawa Senators’ forward Colin Greening (right) is pursued by the Winnipeg Jets’ Blake Wheeler as carries the puck up ice during the teams’ pre-season NHL game at Mile One Centre on Monday evening. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
So what’s the secret with Colin Greening?
No one can be that perfect, can they? Tall, handsome, personable. Captain of the college hockey team. Its second-leading scorer. Winner of scads of awards. An NHL draft pick.
He organized Cornell University’s Homecoming Parade. Arranged the team’s Teddy Bear toss for charity, and its school and hospital visits. Raised money for Special Olympics.
All while maintaining a 3.99 grade point average on his way to an Applied Economics and Management degree.
Why, he even held Sidney Crosby to one shot in one game back when the two were playing in an Atlantic under-16 tournament. Crosby wasn’t so proficient with the defensive side of the game then, it seems, as Greening enjoyed a goal and an assist.
So what gives? There has to be a dark secret, no?
Did he draw a moustache on the principal’s portrait at tony Upper Canada College a few years back? Nope. Sell flats of beer from his Cornell dorm? Uh-uh. Lead a hazing of college freshmen? No way.
Rumour has it someone heard him utter, “Gosh darn it!” the other day.
Jokes aside, Greening’s the real deal, the full package that has mothers of daughters envious.
He’s an NHLer now, an Ottawa Senator, and while it seems there’s been somewhat of a charmed life led somewhere, Greening is quick to admit the road to pro hockey hasn’t been entirely smooth sailing.
Truth is, he’s swabbed his share of decks.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” he said. “I’m a big believer in working on and off the ice and sometimes the work off the ice is just as important, or more important, than what you do on the ice.
“And we’re not just talking the weight room. It’s how you live your life, whether you’re taking nutrition seriously, getting to bed on time. All that type of stuff.
“That in itself can define somebody and whether they make it to the next level.”
Greening, of St. John’s, has been on a fast track to the NHL since completing his four years at Cornell in 2010. A rookie pro last season, Greening auditioned for 24 games with the Senators last winter, and didn’t disappoint with six goals and 13 points.
Ottawa rewarded him with a new contract last summer, one that will pay him $700,000, $800,000 and $950,000 in Year 3. More importantly, it’s a one-way deal, meaning he will make the money whether it’s in the NHL or the minors.
In hockey, it’s the secret handshake for, ‘You’ve made it.’ That, and, ‘Get yourself an apartment.’
“To be honest,” he said after the Senators skated Monday morning, prior to the Kraft Hockeyville tilt with the Winnipeg Jets last night at Mile One, “I thought I was going to be in Binghamton for about two years.
“Even before camp last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect and as soon as I saw the amount of talent at the NHL level, even the AHL level, I’m thinking there’s a lot of work I have to do.”
Ironically enough, Greening played at Mile One last fall, too, when Binghamton took on the Hamilton Bulldogs in an AHL exhibition.
He opened the season with the AHL Sens on the fourth line, but slowly moved his way up the depth chart.
They say you have to be good to be lucky, lucky to be good. In Greening’s case, he caught a break when Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly were traded and Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza went down with injuries.
“I think I’ve worked hard and paid my dues and over the years, and I think I’ve worked very hard to learn the game,” he said.
“But,” he said, “most importantly is I’ve taken advantage of my opportunities. Any time you talk to anybody they’re always given an opportunity to make it to the next level. So when I got here, I was able to take advantage of my opportunities.”
Greening, 25, took a non-conventional route to the NHL.
A product of the St. John’s AAA Maple Leafs midget program, Greening attended Upper Canada College for two years of high school before heading out west at the Nanaimo Clippers of the B.C. junior A league for one season.
Not exactly the Quebec Remparts or Peterborough Petes, but it worked as he landed an NCAA scholarship at Cornell.
“There were a lot of options,” he said, “but I was raised with a lot academic encouragement, I think you could say.
“Growing up, I knew if I could play hockey and get my education at the same time, I’d be very lucky. I think that was in my head, from the time I started playing hockey.”
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org