When Jordan Greenway attended Pioneer High School, he eschewed the custom of his backpack-bearing peers and carried his schoolwork in a metallic silver briefcase. Greenway has never been one to follow a conventional path and now he’s forging a course all his own as the first African-American to play hockey for the USA Olympic team. Named to the team on New Year’s Day, he told ESPN, “It’s special. There’s not a ton of African-Americans who play this game… so this gives me a chance to influence kids who have my skin color. To have them not stick to stereotypes of what sport they’re supposed to play.”
Origins in upstate New York and a deal with his mother
African-Americans currently make up about 5% of the National Hockey League, a similar percentage to the number of African-Americans in upstate Canton NY, where Greenway grew up.
But Greenway, now 6’6” and 235 lbs., quickly grew past even the hockey mania of upstate New York. When he was only twelve, he asked his mother if he could move away and attend a private hockey prep school. She made a deal with him and his younger brother James that if they did all the research and completed the entire application process on their own, she would pay for the prep school, as long they earned university scholarships. The two brothers wound up at Shattuck St. Mary’s in Minnesota, one of the top hockey prep programs in the country, and before living up to their side of the bargain— Jordan earned a full scholarship to Boston University and James to the University of Wisconsin— both brothers participated in the US National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor.
A dedicated student on and off the ice
In his time at Pioneer from 2013-2015, Jordan was “a fabulous person and an excellent student,” according to Lisa Vollmers, a teacher who has served as Director of Student-Athletes Services for USA Hockey for the past 14 years.
Indeed, Greenway’s academic focus is one of the reasons why he’s on the Olympic team this year. Instead of accepting a three-year multi-million dollar deal to play for Minnesota in the NHL- (James, his brother, has been drafted by Toronto) he opted to return to BU for his junior year. That choice made him eligible for the Olympics, as players who have signed NHL contracts are now not allowed to compete. A forward, Greenway plays an aggressive game that led him to be chosen 50th overall in the 2015 NHL draft.
“I am so proud of him I could truly cry,” says Vollmers. “Jordan works incredibly hard and deserves this amazing opportunity. He will be an excellent representative for the United States at the Olympic Games. He has a fabulous personality that is an automatic draw to people, young and old. Jordan regularly made his way down to the administration wing at Pioneer to check in. Everyone enjoyed those visits!”