Scottie Greene looks and feels like a million bucks. He’s happy to be back home in Bishop’s Falls, where he’s coaching kids and working towards finishing off high school. If you listen to his old coach, he could step into a senior hockey lineup tomorrow if he was ever cleared to play.
But you know what? Scottie is sometimes a little off, which is okay. Considering what he’s been through, that’s the least of anybody’s worries.
It’s been just over a year — 14 months and four days, to be exact — since Greene, then 18, nearly died in a car accident outside St. Stephen, N.B., where he was playing for the junior A Aces.
A car carrying Greene and two other teammates left the road, hit a light pole and rolled. Police said no alcohol or drugs factored into the crash.
The other two boys came away from the wreck a bit banged up, but otherwise okay. As for Greene, the Mounties said he had potential life-threatening injuries.
He was taken to a Saint John hospital where he underwent surgery to relieve swelling of the brain. He was induced into a coma, and remained in one for three weeks. His stay in hospital up there was six weeks, until he was transferred home and to the Miller Centre in St. John’s.
Of course, he remembers nothing. But he does recall his teammates crowding the hospital room, seeing his parents for the first time, and his grandparents, who hopped on a plane for the first time and traveled to New Brunswick.
Some six weeks later, Greene was dropping the puck at an Aces game. Shortly after that, he was back in Newfoundland and in no time home in Bishop’s Falls.
His still has checkups with a doctor in Grand Falls-Windsor, and followup appointments at the Miller Centre.
His recovery is nothing short of remarkable.
“It’s crazy, to be honest,” said his former major midget coach, Rob Canning. “I mean, he’s extremely lucky to be alive.”
“Physically I’d say he’s 100 per cent,” said his father, Duane, “but mentally, maybe it’s a little slower.”
There is a cognitive delay, but it’s only been 14 months since the accident. His father says doctors have told him it will be 18-24 months before they are able to definitively say if there will be improvement.
“So you really can’t judge right now. We don’t know if there might be just some difficulty, or if there will be any difficulty at all.
“We just hope for the best.”
It should be no surprise Scottie Greene has rebounded like he did. He’s a fighter, a hockey player who’s beaten the odds before.
Consider this: he was one of the provincial major midget league’s top defencemen in 2014 and ’15, finishing as a finalist for the best D-man award one year.
Both years he was ranked for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft, and both times was passed over.
On the recommendation of Darren Halloran of QMJHL Central Scouting, the Sherbrooke Phoenix took a flyer on the youngster from central Newfoundland and invited him to training camp.
And didn’t Greene make Sherbrooke’s 2015-16 opening-day roster, appearing in 15 games for the Phoenix before a trade to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
He sat and watched most of that year, and the next season was sent to St. Stephen of the Maritime junior A circuit. He got into only two games before that fateful night when he climbed into the car with two buddies.
Doctors won’t even think about letting him play competitive hockey, though the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts would like them to do so. The Cats took Greene in the Central-West Senior Hockey League’s draft.
That may be a way’s off, if it ever happens, so for now Greene is up to his eyeballs coaching, helping Canning out with the Central AAA bantam team’s defence, assisting his father with the Bishop’s Falls peewees, and coaching a bunch of tykes in the Bishop’s Falls novice initiation division for five to seven-year-olds.
“I have so much fun with the little ones,” he said. “For a lot of them, it’s their first time on the ice. It melts my heart.”
Of course, coaching will never replace playing, although it’s a close second. Canning is delighted Greene’s on board with the AAA IcePak, noting the knowledge he brings to the dressing room is immeasurable.
As for Duane Greene, he has a prosthetic, and is unable to get on the ice. No matter, Duane runs practice from the bench, while Scottie’s oversees the drills.
“Between the two of us,” he joked, “we make it work.”
“I miss the game, but I really like helping the kids,” Scottie said. “It’s rewarding to help someone’s game through coaching.
“Some of the AAA kids are exceptional players and they’re asking me questions about what should they do in the future. I’m not calling myself the greatest hockey player in the world, but I try to help them with some information.”
Whether the kids ever apply that knowledge is a coin toss. But this much is certain: they will never find a bigger inspiration than the assistant coach at the end of the bench.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort