Bruins

BU’s Greenway a pioneer in quest for Olympic gold

BU’s Greenway a pioneer in quest for Olympic gold

All it takes is one glance at the Agganis Arena ice to notice the Boston University hockey player who stands out from the rest. The sole African-American on the team, Jordan Greenway, stands 6-5 and weighs 238 pounds, making him the biggest player on the team.

Yet the thing that truly distinguishes Greenway from his teammates goes beyond the human eye. He’s in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

One Christmas gift arrived a week late for the BU forward, but the phone call he got was worth the wait. On his drive home from winter break, Greenway found out he had been selected to the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team.

“Jim Johannson called me a couple of days before and just told me, ‘You’re on the team.’ It wasn’t official yet, it wasn’t official knowledge so we kind of kept it confidential. But it was really good. I was really excited,” Greenway said. “One of the best Christmas presents I got.”

Johannson is the U.S. men's hockey team’s general manager and was part of the selection process. In April, the NHL announced that its players would not be participating in the Winter Games, which gave some minor leaguers and college players the opportunity of a lifetime. 

At the beginning of the year, it was Greenway’s goal to represent Team USA and now, he’s one of the four NCAA men’s hockey players to compete in South Korea.

Now, 60 years after Willie O’Ree integrated the NHL by playing for the Bruins, the story of hockey’s unhurried progress comes full circle in Boston. It wasn’t until an interview that Greenway learned he will be the first black player to break a 98-year color barrier in U.S. Olympic men’s hockey. As historical as this accomplishment is, the 20-year-old just hopes the sport will continue to grow.

“I just think I’m another kid going to play in the Olympics, I don’t really see it like that,” Greenway said. “I’m happy I am the first. I hope I’m the first of many and I hope I can just motivate younger kids to kind of try something different. I don’t think a lot of African-Americans play hockey at a high level. I’m just trying to get more and more of those kids to try and go out and do something different.” 

Hockey has taken Greenway around the world but he has always had the support of the two people he grew up with in Canton, New York. His mother, Shannon Sullivan, and younger brother, James “JD” Greenway have been his biggest supporters since this journey began.

When Jordan was 14, Sullivan agreed to send her sons to Shattuck-Saint Mary's, a boarding school in Faribault, Minn., on one condition; The Greenway boys would earn scholarships for college. At that time, Jordan didn’t know he would be this successful in the sport, but in retrospect, he’s glad he took a chance. 

“They’ve been great. My mom, she kind of lets us do as we please,” Greenway said. “She’s very helpful especially letting me go to Shattuck at a really young age. I don’t know if I would be here without that help but she’s done everything in her power to get us where we needed to be, even financially getting us to Shattuck. She’s been great.”

As for life after this year, Jordan says he’s just trying to live in the moment. The Minnesota Wild prospect has until Aug. 15 after his graduation from BU but he’s in no rush to think that far ahead.

February has brought a few more gifts to Jordan. Before heading to South Korea, he helped the Terriers defeat Harvard 3-2 in the first round of the Beanpot tournament at TD Garden. Greenway assisted on Brandon Hickey’s goal in the third period. The annual event includes BU, Boston College, Harvard and Northeastern competing for bragging rights, but more important, the chance to drink out of the precious Beanpot. (that is, only if they’re 21, of course.). BU meets Northeastern in the final Monday night. Last year, the Terriers fell to Harvard 6-3 in the final.

The Games begin Friday and (full TV coverage on NBC and online at nbcolympics.com) and the men’s hockey competition starts Feb. 14, but the highlight of the month has nothing to the sport he loves. Jordan will be celebrating his 21st birthday on Feb. 16 and, of course, there is only one more gift he wants…

An Olympic gold medal.

Morning Skate: Minnesota has a Massachusetts feel

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NBC Sports Boston illustration

Morning Skate: Minnesota has a Massachusetts feel

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while things play out between the Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning in a Game 7 for all the marbles.
 
-- Massachusetts native Charlie Coyle is scheduled to undergo surgery on both wrists. I’ve got to imagine that’s going to make for a few weeks where everything is pretty much impossible to do post –surgery for the Minnesota Wild forward.  

-- Another local hockey product is going to be associated with the Minnesota Wild, as Springfield, Mass., native Paul Fenton has been named the new general manager.
 
-- The Golden Knights tale is one of some very shrewd moves prior to their opening season, and a lot of things that have gone their way since then.

 -- Something tells me Bruins fans aren’t going to get tired of offensive highlights from New York Islanders rookie Mat Barzal. They are a glutton for punishment, after all.
 
-- The Toronto Maple Leafs front office is now completely under the control of Kyle Dubas, as both Lou Lamoriello and Mark Hunter have exited the organization.
 
 -- Here’s a look at the short-term salary cap picture for the Detroit Red Wings as they continue to build back up toward being a playoff power.
 
*For something completely different: So I’m buying in on Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia talking Star Wars on this podcast. Who knew big CC was a Star Wars guy?

A look at Bruins in free agency: Anton Khudobin

A look at Bruins in free agency: Anton Khudobin

It was a bit eyebrow-raising when Bruins team president Cam Neely last week mentioned backup goaltending as a priority for the Bruins on their offseason shopping list. The assumption was that the Bruins would find common ground with looming free agent Anton Khudobin after a stellar season in which he played 31 games as Tuukka Rask’s understudy.

The ability to play well and play relatively often is a mandatory one with the Bruins as the formula for team success includes a plan that gives their No. 1 in Rask ample physical and mental rest in the regular season.

A return for Khudobin, 32, is still the most likely scenario for the Bruins when all things are considered given that he posted a 2.56 goals-against average and .913 save percentage as the perfect backup to Rask, and given that he wants to stick around in Boston.

“I want to be here. I like [it] here. I’ve been in California, I’ve been in Texas, I’ve been in Carolina, I’ve been in Minnesota. I’ve been in a lot of cities and a lot of states, and Boston is my favorite one,” said Khudobin, with the trademark twinkle in his eye as he discussed a city he returned to two years ago after his first stint with the Bruins. “That’s clearly [the truth], and it’s not because I want to give it a shot, or try to say I’m so nice I’m going to just sign here. This is my favorite city. That’s the way it is. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to sign here, or if I’m going to go away, or if I’m going to sign here. Boston is still going to be my favorite city.

“Don [Sweeney] knows that I love it here. I love the city and everybody knows it. How much is it going to be a factor in signing a new contract, I don’t know? I don’t think it will be a factor. I don’t think it matters. It matters what they can offer and how much I’m willing to take. For me personally, I would love to stay here. I’m 32 right now, and if I’m going to play until 40 I would love to play another eight years here. That’s clear for me. If we will get a deal, today, or tomorrow, or in free agency, I don’t know. But if it will happen in Boston, I will be happy.”

So, the good news is that the B’s and Khudobin are halfway there with the player clearly in love with the city and the team and has already proven he can provide the support Rask clearly needs. Still, it’s also a safe bet that, coming off a strong season, Khudobin is going to want a bit of a raise from the two-year, $2.4 million contract he signed a couple of years ago. Perhaps his season was even good enough to entice a goalie-challenged NHL team into giving him another go-round as a possible No. 1 candidate after mixed reviews in his one and only shot with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The uncertainty of Khudobin as a possible free agent come July 1 and the poor conditioning that factored into an at-times bad opening season in Boston might just be giving the Bruins pause about bringing him back on a multi-year deal. That seems to be bearing out in some of the B’s organizational comments about the backup goaltending headed into the offseason.

“I thought [Khudobin] had a great year for us. He really stepped in when Tuukka was struggling a little bit and gave us an opportunity to win hockey games,” said Neely. “If he we didn’t have that, we certainly have had the year that we did. He’s well-liked in the locker room and starting last year with those two big games against Chicago and the Islanders before he followed it up with a great start this year.

“Obviously it has to make sense for us. When somebody has a really good year headed into UFA they want to see what’s out there, so you can’t blame them for that.”

Certainly, the Bruins could, and should, be willing to go into the two-year, $3-3.5 million range for Khudobin given the stability he helped bring to the goaltending situation. That would be a fair league rate for a backup goalie. The problem for the Bruins is that they don’t have any ready-made alternatives within the organization. Zane McIntyre had a very mixed AHL season with the Providence Bruins and Malcolm Subban was lost to the Vegas Golden Knights via waivers at the beginning of this past season.

“Zane had pushed the previous year. He had an up-and-down year this year. Had some real good pockets of games where he was excellent, and other games where some of the situations, he didn’t necessarily rise up to. He’s in the [backup goalie] mix, certainly, to push for our group. We’re exploring bringing Anton back and see if that might work,” said Sweeney. “If not, we may have to go to an alternative. Daniel Vladar was around, played a lot more games this year. He will be in Providence next year as part of the development process for him.

“[Kyle] Keyser came in at the end of the year, as well, had a good year. He’s part of it. Jeremy Swayman also had a very good year in Maine and took over the starting role there. We feel like we’re starting to make sure we address it appropriately, and hopefully one of these guys emerges as the next number one for the Boston Bruins. It’s an area we have to make sure that we’re spot on. We’ll be looking at [McIntyre] again this summer, and it starts with where our talks with Anton go.”

So let’s be honest about the names mentioned above. The 20-year-old Vladar has played 12 games in the AHL the past two seasons and Swayman is in the middle of his collegiate career with the Black Bears. Keyser was last spotted being taken to the hospital via ambulance after getting hit in the neck with a puck at a Bruins playoff practice. He was expected to be fine afterward, but it’s clear he’s also not ready to be an NHL backup straight out of junior hockey.

So, McIntyre is the only candidate with any qualifications to be an NHL backup next season and his 3.97 GAA and .858 save percentage in eight NHL appearances should give the Bruins a whole lot of pause given the importance of the position. Certainly, there will be some backup goalie candidates in free agency that have experience with the Bruins organization whether it’s Chad Johnson, Michael Hutchinson or Jeremy Smith, or Antti Niemi, Kari Lehtonen or Jaroslav Halak that might be ready to transition fully into an aging, oft-used backup at a discount in Boston.

The good news is that the Bruins should have a lot of different backup goalie options to choose from if that’s the plan come July 1, but the better news would be if both Khudobin and the B’s come to a sensible agreement to keep Rask and Khudobin intact as a tandem. After all, they finished last season fourth in the NHL in GAA (2.57), tied for ninth in save percentage (.912), and gave the Black and Gold a chance to win just about every night.

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