Resolve to Overcome Drives Wichita Thunder Goalie Scott Greenham
Robert Luongo, one of the most widely respected goalies in the National Hockey League, once said, “I don’t fear stopping a 100-mph slap shot; I fear not stopping it.”
It takes a certain kind of person to stand in front of frozen piece of rubber being shot at them at speeds that would get your license taken away in most places in this country. Not only is one expected to stop shots of this nature, but to do so hundreds of times during a season.
Honestly, it takes a certain kind of person to withstand the rigors of being in goal. Some might say crazy is the right word, but it is a special kind of toughness that sets goalies apart from any other player in the sports world. It is the need for a mental toughness that combines the guile of a quarterback, the short-memory of a Major League closer, and the physical skills of an Olympic gymnast. It is these kinds of special qualities that makes Wichita Thunder goalie Scott Greenham so ideal for the position.
A Position Requiring a Poor Memory
A person can watch Sportscenter on any given day of the week, and you will hear pundits speak on how the quarterback is the most important player in all of sports. That sounds great on American television, but this is a player who is on the field for basically half of the plays of a game. He is a big impact player, but has nowhere near the impact that a hockey goalie does.
A quarterback may get hot at playoff time, but no QB outside of Joe Namath carried a team on his back all the way to the Super Bowl. However, history is filled with tales of goalies who have nearly single-handedly carried a team to the Stanley Cup finals. Men like Ron Hextall, Dominik Hasek, and even Grant Fuhr took teams that were challenged to put the puck in the opposing net or who were unable to defend in front of their own net, and helped their teams reach Stanley Cup glory.
To play goalie one must be a glutton for punishment. As Hall of Fame goalie Jacques Plante once said, it is the only job where you make the slightest mistake and a red light goes off and 18,000 people yell at you. To withstand that and excel requires a special kind of toughness, and this is why Scott Greenham always envisioned himself at a goalie.
Born to Skate
From the time that Scott Greenham could walk, he could skate. In fact, within a few months of learning how to walk, his mom already had him on the ice skating. She was a figure skater and wanted her son to enjoy her sanctuary as much as she did.
“My mom taught me right away. She was a figure skater, so she was always going to the ice with me. I know she loved going to the ice rink and she wanted me to enjoy it too.”
While his mother taught him to skate, his grandfather was the one who inspired him to play hockey. The sport became a part of a very special relationship between the two, as his granddad taught his Scott about hockey.
“My grandpa actually played in the Detroit Red Wings system. With hockey, it was kind of his and my thing. Nobody else in the family really played hockey, so this became something that was just between us.”
The “Penalty” for Wanting to Play Hockey
When Scottt Greenham first became interested in playing hockey, he really wanted to play defense. However, to play street hockey in his neighborhood meant that the only way he was going to play was to be between the pipes.
“I always wanted to be a defenseman and then there was a group of kids on the street who were four-years older than me and, if I wanted to play hockey with them, I had to go goalie. So, they would always shove me in the net in road hockey.”
Many little kids would have railed against the injustice of being forced to be shot at by kids who were four-years older than them, but Scott’s mother made it clear early on that if he wanted to play, it was time to man up.
“My mom always told me that if I wanted to play with the older kids that I wasn’t allowed to cry or whine about anything. So, I would always just stay in there and take the shots and not say a word about it.”
In organized hockey, Scott got to fulfill his dream. He was playing defense, but the team he was with was looking for goalies and so a position change was about to occur and, after a minor mishap, he quickly came to love his permanent position.
“I started out as a player when I started playing minor hockey and in my hockey organization they were telling people when they were getting cut from the competitive team as a player that the organization needed more goalies, so I asked my dad if he would let me play and be a goalie and he said for sure. In the first practice, they sized my equipment up wrong and put it to the top of my knee and then when I went down that very first shot I got hit in the knee and started to cry. My dad pulled me off the ice and asked me if this was something I really wanted to do and I said yes, I really wanted to be a goalie. So, he took me out and got me a full set of new gear and I have just loved it ever since.”
Scott took to goaltending like a fish in water. He was used to the challenges of being shot at 30 or 40 times each time he played, and rather hard shots at that, because of his days on the street playing with the older kids. This helped to psychologically prepare him for being the everyday goalie for a team.
“It definitely made me not scared of the shots. Especially with them having harder shots as older kids, so I always had to step my game up to be a little better.”
Preparing for College
Scott Greenham was performing well in his new position and joined the Nepean Raiders of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) for the 2004-2005 season. He would spend a season there, appearing in 17 games and posting a stingy 2.34 GAA. Most impressive was his 12-1-1 record.
The next two seasons he would be closer to home, playing for the Ottawa Jr. Senators. Greenham would make 66 total appearances there, posting a combined record of 30-25-3 with 3-shutouts.
In 2007-2008, he moved to the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL), joining the Oakville Blades. There his numbers were ridiculously good. Scott appeared in 35-games, posting a 2.32 GAA and going 27-3-3. That included three shutouts.
The next season, Scott headed off to college, joining the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He would spend four years at the school, earning a degree in sports marketing and sports management. On the ice, he was the backup his freshman season, appearing in 5-games, but was the starter over the next three years. In four seasons with the team, Scott won 48-games, had 11-shutouts, and never had a goals against higher than 2.47.
At one point, he played in 79 consecutive games, a streak that started in his sophomore season and ran into his senior year. The goalie was named to the CCHA All-Conference second team, and he still holds many of the school’s records, including most career wins, shutouts, and lowest career goals against average (2.18).
The goalie not only excelled on the ice but in the classroom as well. He made the Dean’s List in both 2010 and 2011, and was on the Chancellor’s List in 2009 for posting a combined GPA of 4.0. He graduated UAF with a 3.57 GPA. He was also quite active in volunteer work, helping in the “Nooks for Books” program, which aided local students in the Fairbanks area to learn to read. He and his teammates helped sponsor a young boy in Africa to ensure that his basic needs were provided for, and he worked with girls in the area to teach them how to play hockey.
A Professional Career Begins
After graduating from Fairbanks, Scott Greenham was not drafted but signed with the Ottawa Senators organization. In the 2011-2012 season, the goalie split time between the Bakersfield Condors of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), and the Houston Aeros and the Hershey Bears of the Atlantic Hockey League (AHL). He appeared in seven total games, going 2-4-0, but showed enough that he was brought back the next season and would split time between Bakersfield and the Binghamton Senators (AHL).
In the ECHL, Scott posted a solid 3.39 GAA with an 11-19-3 record and a shutout. He appeared in just 11 minutes in Binghamton. The next season he made five starts in Binghamton, going undefeated (4-0-1) and posting a 2.57 GAA. He also made 27 appearances for the Elmira Jackals (ECHL), going 8-15-3 with a 3.21 GAA.
Two seasons ago, he spent an extensive amount of time in the AHL, appearing in 29 games for the Senators, going 15-11-2 with a 2.77 GAA. He also made eight appearances for the Evansville Iceman (ECHL), going 1-4-2.
Last season, he would prove that he belonged in the AHL but was not given much of a chance to do so. Scott made just six appearances, but was 3-1-0 with a 2.19 GAA. In Evansville, he played extremely well, making 23 appearances, and going 11-9-3 with a 2.78 GAA.
This season, the Ottawa Senators signed an affiliate agreement with the Wichita Thunder and so Scott Greenham has started the season as the Thunder’s No. 1 goalie. He has had a brief call up to Binghamton, but has teamed with Drew Owsley in Wichita to form one of the best goalie combinations in the ECHL. Scott is 18th in the league with a 2.85 GAA, fourth in save percentage (.927) and is 6-4-0 in 11appearances. He has provided what Head Coach Malcolm Cameron calls an “A+ performance” and has been a key reason why the team finds itself in the thick of the playoff race early this season.
Embracing the Challenges
Clearly, Scott Greenham wishes he had started the year in the AHL, and has shown in past performances that he deserves a real shot there. He would have every right to think that he is not being given the chance he has earned, but that is not the style of the goalie to complain.
Since deciding to play hockey, Scott has simply done what was needed to get on the ice to be a good teammate. From his days on the street playing with kids who were significantly more developed than him, to being a 29-year-old veteran on a team that has seven rookies on its roster, Scott has given it his all every time his name was called.
His vision when he entered high school was that he would play major junior hockey, but that did not materialize for him. Yet, he is actually thankful that his career track took him through a different junior league and to college, as this has made him a much better goalie now.
“I really wanted to go major junior hockey but that didn’t work out for me. I’m kind of glad that it didn’t work out for me because I needed a few extra years in junior and four years in college to kind of make sure that my game was at the point where I needed it to be going to the pros. I don’t think I would’ve had that so I would’ve been ready to step into the pro game had I gone through major junior hockey.”
His commitment to his team shown forth when he was with the Canadian National Team at the World Roller Hockey Championships. He was the team’s No. 1 goalie, but a scuffle led to an unusual request and Scott made the most of it.
“I played internationally for team Canada at the World Championships in Paris one year. We had a little bit of a bench clearing brawl against the Czechs one game and a bunch of guys got suspended. In the following game against Germany we were short players, so our backup goalie started and I went to forward. I actually scored a goal. That’s kind of a neat story for me because I scored an international goal against Germany.”
This season he fully understands that he is the veteran on a team that has a lot of young players, and that the players and the coaching staff are looking for this veteran to step up and set the tone for the team. He is more than happy to embrace this challenge as well.
“When you are a veteran there is a lot of expectation on how you conduct yourself. It’s coming to the rink every day and battling, showing the guys how dedicated you are and how motivated you are to the team and to them. I think a lot of guys have shown that on the team and it shows in the start we had this season. We had a pretty good start to this year and I think a lot of the guys have really bought into the system that Malcolm Cameron brought here.”
Scott also wants to be the kind of leader who is as concerned with his teammates’ play on the ice as he is with the challenges they face off the ice. His age and experience have given him a lot of wisdom, and he embraces that a good leader is a part time psychologist as well.
“Right now being 29 and kind of an older guy, I’d like to be a leader and a guy that the guys can come to about on ice situations. From my position in the net I see things from a different perspective or a different angle than a lot of the players do, so I feel like I see a lot more than maybe they do. I also want to be a guy that they can come to even about off ice situations. A lot of these guys are new to professional hockey and there are a lot of challenges that come with that, and I feel like being a good leader is something that is important to me at this point in my career.”
Willing to Take the Heat
Scott Greenham loves the challenges he faces at this point in his career. In fact, he may be enjoying playing goalie now more than ever, but there is one part of being a goalie he really enjoys the most.
“I love the fact that it’s either that you get all the credit or all the blame. It’s motivating for me. If I lose then I feel like I kind of let the team down, and if I win then it’s a pretty good high to be on. That’s what I enjoy the most.”
This season has been a learning process for the Wichita Thunder. Not only are they having to learn a system taught by their new coach, but that has led to a lot of nights were the team has given up 40-plus shots. In fact, the 36 shots against he averages a night is the most of any goalie in the league. That means 10 or 12 slap shots a night at 90-plus miles an hour he is supposed to stop two or three times a week. That sure doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.
Dominik Hasek once said that “Only Dunlop had seen more rubber” than he had. This season, Scott Greenham finds himself in that unenviable role. Don’t shed any tears for the 29-year-old however. Of all the challenges he faces, accepting people’s sympathy for him is not one that he is looking to embrace. He is a hockey player after all.
Featured Image Courtesy of Ed Bailey of the Sin Bin
By Robert Pannier