Goodnight and Good Luck – Joe Greener

As promised now the season has ended, given the news that he and his family will be leaving for America, it’s time for us to bid farewell to Joe Greener.

(c) 5 Hole Photography

(c) 5 Hole Photography

What have we lost?

I’ve long said, and evidence of playoff weekend has done nothing to change this, that Joe Greener is the best power forward in the EPIHL. A fantastic blend of toughness, strength and skill, there are fewer people that did that role in this league better than Greener. Combined in league and playoffs over his EPL tenure, Greener had over 400 games, over 500 points and over 900 penalty minutes.

In a league that is very Eastern European in a lot of its ways, thanks in no small part to his junior hockey in the NAHL, Greener was a very North American style player. He put up points, he landed big hits and he threw the fists when it was felt to be needed. The Bison lose a massive piece at the heart of their title winning jigsaw as they need to replace someone who not only was a big part of the points production but also an emotional leader and in some ways its policeman. Combine that with his habit of always being in the right place at the right time, it’s a huge hole to fill.

Where has he gone?

Joe and family are relocating to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan where he will become one of the coaches of the Soo Indians Midget AAA club.

Who replaces him?

Given the only confirmed player for next season is Tomas Karpov on the third year of his deal at the moment (and I sure don’t want Karpov trying to do Joe Greener’s job), nobody. Rumours abound about all sorts of players but nothing is currently confirmed.

Final thoughts:

(c) 5 Hole Photography

(c) 5 Hole Photography

I booed. I booed and I booed and I booed, I think we all did at least once. Any time we seemed to have an issue with the Slough Jets on the ice, Joe Greener was in the middle of it. The discussions amongst the committee whenever Joe was nominated for the blog’s player of the year always saw it mentioned at least once; that if your team was playing against him, you hated Joe Greener.

When Jeremy Cornish signed for the Bison there were a few sceptics but a Sheffield supporting friend of mine rang me and said “you’ll love watching him week in, week out” and we did. When the Bison signed Joe Greener, many weren’t sure they could cheer for him. Years later as over a thousand fans chanted his name at his final league game and hundreds in attendance at the Skydome last Saturday, I think it’s safe to say that people came around.

There’s a load of reasons why the Bison have done so well over the last couple of years but a big one of them has been the fact that we had top level game breakers at EPL level; the sort of player who could have those moments of magic. They come in many forms too. Kurt Reynolds is a defensive game breaker because in a tight spot, he will twist and turn a forward inside out and be able to clear the danger. Tomas Karpov and Ciaran Long are skilled game breakers because all of a sudden, they will pull something out of their back pocket and score a wonder goal. Joe Greener was an old fashioned game breaker and a game changer. When you needed someone to go through a wall, through the wall he would go. He would always be lurking at the side of the crease in “his office” or be charging to the net and just be a general menace. When the Bison needed someone in overtime to score to take them to Coventry for the first time, it was Greener camped at the side of the net that lifted the puck over Dean Skinns’ pad. With seconds to go in the league title winning game, who chased down on the forecheck to make sure that Swindon couldn’t set up again in the dying moments? Even last Saturday; yes we lost but when we couldn’t find a way through and we needed a dirty goal, who was there on the doorstep?

All this would make you think someone would be much more vocal, have a bit more swagger about things but when the Bison won the league all he had to say to Bison TV was, “speechless, happy for the boys.” Greener actively seemed to shun the limelight, just happy to be one of the guys and hope the end result came. As his EPL career ends with 3 playoffs, 2 cups and 1 league title, that seems a safe bet.

On Sunday in Coventry whilst I was doing the Playoffs Live podcast, one of the contributors very graciously made a point of wishing Joe well as he moves to a life beyond playing. I was off mic at the time and a fan of another club behind me said “I won’t miss him”. I smirked and said “you lot would have killed for a player like Joe Greener and you’d have loved him as well.” The person made a face and said, “No I wouldn’t”. With the greatest of respect to that person, I didn’t believe them then and I don’t think I ever will.

All the best, Joe to you and the family; I don’t make a habit of trying to speak for everyone but I think I am on safe ground when I say that all of us wish you every success in the next chapter.

Greener_Swindon_PO_goal

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