Friday, August 03, 2007

Traverse City's Greener back for more

There’s a Latin expression – ‘carpe diem’ – which means to ‘seize the day.’

Joe Greener wants to take it a step further and drink in an entire year.

The Traverse City North Stars’ 6-foot-1, 215-pound power forward enters his final year of junior hockey with some unfinished business on his mind – business that kept him from returning to his native England to play professionally.

“I wanted to come back to Traverse City to win something, to claim a national championship, ideally,” said Greener, a product of Surrey, about 35 minutes southeast of London. “Last year was not as good as we had hoped it would be in terms of the won-lost record, so I felt like I really wanted to be here when it did come around.”

While home in the United Kingdom this summer – and on holiday near Alicante, Spain – Greener had an opportunity to ply his trade in the British National League for 2007-08, but says he feels a definite attachment to northern Michigan.

“I’ve made so many friends over here, so many good people,” Greener added. “And my housing parents, Scott and Denise Loveland, have been so good to me. Plus, I worked so hard to get my visa, and it had another year on it, so it all made sense to come back.”

Greener poured in 12 goals and assisted on 15 other while playing in the full compliment of 62 contests last year. He was also third among North American Hockey League skaters with 189 penalty minutes. While Greener dubs himself a ‘power forward,' Stars head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo won’t pigeonhole the center as such.

“I think everybody underestimates Joe a little bit as a skilled player,” Palumbo surmised. “As a midget in the Soo, he was a guy putting up 40-plus goals a year. Plus, he brings a lot of leadership and toughness, and I don’t necessarily mean by dropping the gloves. We expect that if we can get him in the right positions, he’s going to score some goals for us.”

While Greener – who packed on 5-7 pounds of lean muscle this summer working for his brother’s construction company – is among those returning players who will be counted on heavily on the ice this year, it is his steadying influence in the locker room that aids in the interpersonal cohesion requisite to winning games.

“The guys look to him for leadership, and he’s a great teammate,” said fellow returnee Jameson Raymond. “We’re all very glad he came back. He’s part of the heart and soul of this team.”

While Greener worked long, strenuous hours this summer, he found very little time – or competition – in England to keep his hockey skills sharp. And since this weekend’s training camp – from which the Stars will hew their 25-man roster come Sunday evening – is the first serious competitive hockey he’s played in months, Greener says it’s an important three-day stretch for him.

“I just hope I can keep up with everyone,” he quipped. “I hope I can provide what everyone expects from me. It was good to have a break to sort of recharge the batteries a little bit, but my hands and confidence will probably take a little time to come back.

“But this is my last year of juniors and I plan on making the most of it every day, every game.”

The Stars’ training camp continues through Sunday evening, when the team will introduce its roster during a hot dog cookout at around 5:45 p.m. All events, including the BBQ, are free to the public.

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