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.