Building the Herd – Joe Greener

#97 Joe Greener

Position: Forward

Born: Basingstoke, Hampshire

Announced as signed: Bison website, 14th August

(c) 5 Hole Photography

(c) 5 Hole Photography

With the season nearly upon us and Banners On The Wall gearing up for the new campaign, coach Doug Sheppard is putting the finishing touches to the Bison roster with the announcement that Joe Greener returns to the Herd for 2014/15 as player/assistant coach.

Greener, 27 returns for his 3rd season in Bison colours after an impressive 2013/14 campaign where he scored 24 goals and 41 assists for 65 points in 52 games during the regular season as well as a goal and an assist in the playoffs and 5 assists in 4 games during the later stages of the EPL cup.

Greener started his hockey in the Bison junior system and made guest appearances in the BNL for the Herd before an impressive 2001/02 for the Bison under 19s where he scored 12 goals and 18 points in 15 games saw him drafted into the Herd’s BNL squad for 2002/03. Greener dressed for 31 games scoring 3 goals and 2 assists as the Bison finished 4th in their final season in the BNL.

Whilst the Bison moved on to be one of the founder members of the Elite League, Greener moved across the Atlantic Ocean to further his hockey skills by joining the Soo Indians organisation. Starting in 2003/04 with their team in the Mid West Elite Hockey League, one of the best youth leagues in the US, Joe scored an impressive 56 points in 70 games. He found his way into Indians team in the North American Hockey League (NAHL), but his season was a short one, 3 regular season games and 4 playoff appearances as well as appearing for GB under 18s.

2005/06 saw Joe move from Soo to Cleveland to play for the Barons and an 18 point campaign in 57 games before a two year stint in Traverse City with the North Stars. Joe played 103 games across the two seasons scoring 48 points to finish off his junior hockey career.

After finishing with the North Stars, Joe returned back to Britain and signed with Bracknell in the EPL for 2008/09, quickly establishing himself as one of the best young prospects in the league with 51 points in 45 games. After one season at The Hive, Joe moved across Berkshire to sign with Slough where he spent the next 3 campaigns, 2 of them as captain. In 157 games for the Jets, Greener scored 218 points as well as capturing 2 playoff titles in 2010 and 2012 and the EPL cup in 2011 where the Jets beat the Bison in the final.

When Doug Sheppard left the Jets to return to Basingstoke, he convinced Greener to return as well as the Bison re-tooled their lineup and made the club’s first real charge at EPL silverware in 2012/13. Greener’s season was hampered slightly by injury as he finished with 49 points in 46 games and the Bison fell agonisingly short of all the trophies before this past campaign with the double, Greener’s first as Sheppard’s assistant coach.

So the rumours and wishful thinking of our friends in Berkshire were unfounded and Joe Greener remains a Bison for another season. The Bison’s top scoring British player and 2nd in the club’s scoring charts to Tomas Karpov will have been high on Doug Sheppard’s list of people he wanted to return. Greener has his detractors, mainly those who do not like his style of play rather than a lack of appreciation for his talents (including this blog and many others initially admitting that they didn’t know how to cheer for him after booing him for three years in Slough) but there’s one thing people should be in agreement over; Joe Greener is a top quality British talent in the EPL.

At the end of 2012/13, there were some who were critical of the season past, many forgetting or seemingly unaware of the injury that Joe played with for large chunks of the season. In spite of that, he went over a point per game so his return was expected.

2013/14, aside from having him fit most of the year saw Joe like everyone else benefit from the chemistry in the camp. The combination of Greener, Chinn and Long after Ciaran joined from Slough never got the headlines of the MKM line but was equally as potent and added a much grittier edge that some teams in the EPL lacked in their top 6. All three men are more than happy playing the body as well as well and the combination just made sense. Long and Greener both possess excellent and accurate shots and Chinny is just Chinny. The passes go where he wants them to go.

Greener himself as an individual player is one of the EPL’s premier power forwards. He can score, he can hit, he can fight when needed, he’s never afraid to get right into the face of a netminder and take the requisite hacks and whacks that come with that. Like Ciaran Long, Greener shines in big games and has an almost uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time; just ask Swindon.

The assistant coach tag is always an interesting one. At 27, you could question why he would want the responsibility when you could just be playing in what many would call his prime years. It’s a two way process though, learning to coach at this stage is never a bad skill to have for Greener and when you consider who the head coach is, it makes sense in many ways. Though they play different roles, you can see Greener and Sheppard are very similar people; focussed and passionate about their hockey though neither are particularly what you would call extroverted off the ice (though compared to Aaron Connolly, who is?). Aside from having one of your best players in that position of responsibility, someone who is like minded helps as well.

Ultimately and despite the hopes of the Bracknell press and fans, the Bison have re-signed a player who is more than established at this level. Greener now has 3 playoff titles and 2 EPL cups at 27. That’s 5 trophies in the EPL in 6 seasons; that dear reader is not a coincidence. He rejoins a team that can and should contend again this season and whilst some may occasionally not like how he goes about it, you can’t argue that it isn’t successful. (I wonder how often that phrase will be used this upcoming season.)

Welcome back, Joe and if someone skates into you during a warm up again just think happy thoughts.

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