By Matt Mackinder -
Generally, summer hockey schools provide area youths the opportunity to either learn the game or fine-tune their skills for the upcoming season.
The Andy Greene Hockey School does all that, but with a twist.
While most schools turn a profit, the Greene school is certainly in that category, but any extra money taken in gets donated to Trenton-area youth sports programs. Last year, donations were able to buy a new set of jerseys for the Trenton High School hockey team. Donations have also been given to the THS varsity baseball team and Trenton Hockey Association.
The school itself is for kids aged six through 12, though some five-year-olds are accepted based on individual ability. Greene is on the ice everyday from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the kids, interacting and being a role model for them. He has an autograph day where we brings in the kids 5-6 at a time so he can spend a few minutes with each signing and taking pictures. At the end of camp, there is a picnic for the kids with a drawing and giveaways of Devils jerseys, hats and shirts. This year, Greene was able to buy some sets of hockey cards and he had the entire Devils team sign them before he came home.
“We came up with the hockey school idea because we wanted a way to give something back to the community,” said Greene, a Trenton native and stalwart on the New Jersey Devils’ blue line these days. “There were different ideas, but the one I thought would be best was a hockey school. Once we settled on the hockey school, we started planning it out and setting up a few core ideas on what we wanted it to be about.”
Once those details were ironed out, the school took off for Greene and instructors Todd Watson, former Compuware Ambassadors, Plymouth Whalers and Saginaw Spirit coach who is now a scout with the Dallas Stars, and current Spirit associate coach John Kisil.
“What sets this school apart from other schools is the organization, small details and commitment from all the people involved,” Greene said. “I know there are many ways to spend your money and one thing I wanted to make sure this is done professionally and make it worth your while. When you drop your kid off, you don’t need to worry about a thing. We make sure our instructors are there to meet and greet you as you walk into the rink and take the kids to the locker room. Once the kids are there, we try and make sure not one parent has to tie a pair of skates or worry about their kids while in the locker room. Also, I am on the ice everyday, all day with the kids. I believe it’s very important for me to be on the ice because these kids signed up for it and I want to be a part of it. When we started this three years ago I said, ‘Let’s do this right and I want to be a big part of it.’ I didn’t want to be one of these schools where I show up on the last day, tell everyone ‘thank you’ and that’s it.”
Coming home for the summer is something special for the former Trenton High stand-out, the 2000 Mr. Hockey Award winner who later went on to play in the North American Hockey League for Compuware and in the CCHA for Miami University.
“It’s very important for me to be able to give back because there are a lot people that have a big influence in my life and career,” Greene said. “Trenton is a small community and I have been very grateful for the people that have supported me from the beginning and this is one way for me to give back. I have been very fortunate in my career and one thing my family taught me from a young age is to give back. You never know the impact of something small or large can have on someone’s life. There are a lot of similarities in life and in sports in general. One thing I’ve learned is that everything is not going to go smoothly in life and in hockey. There are always ups and downs and its how you handle these situations – try to preach teamwork, work hard and have fun.”
Those three items are just three such things Greene is looking forward to this coming season with the Devils.
“I’m very excited about the upcoming season,” said Greene. “I’m glad to have a full year to look forward to and can’t wait to get going again. With not making the playoffs last season, it made for too long of a summer. I’m excited about some of the changes the team made and looking forward to the year.”