Kyle Greentree, the star shooter for the Alaska Nanooks hockey team, was no exception to team traditions on Nov. 15.
When his teammates lined up in two rows on the ice facing each other, Greentree, or “Greener” as he’s called, knew he was looking at an alleyway of pain. Bracing himself, Greentree flew down the stretch receiving hits in his back and legs as his teammates laughed at his misfortune knowing that sometime in the future they would share the same fate.
In the end, Greentree, laughing at his possibly bruised backside, skated off the ice with his teammates and friends celebrating what could only described as a good birthday, hockey style. Growing up in British Columbia, Greentree couldn’t help but be involved in hockey.
“That’s what you do,” he says.
Greentree strapped on his first pair of skates when he was 3. At age 6, he was playing competitive hockey, skating and shooting in the minor leagues. Greentree admits he didn’t get really serious until he was 11-years-old when, with his parents’ support, he started playing in tournaments.
From there, Greentree’s career took off. He finished first in goals and second in points in the entire Canadian Junior A Hockey League one year. When he left the Victoria Salsa’s in the British Columbia Hockey League, whom he had played with for four years, the team had his No. 39 jersey retired.
But Greentree’s favorite hockey accomplishment from his pre-UAF career had to be in junior hockey when he pulled off a “Gordy Howe” hat trick, in which he shot five goals, provided three assists and got into a fight at the end of the game.
In 2004, Greentree started playing for the Nanooks. He had hung out with Curtis Fraser, Lucas Burnett and Nathan Fornataro during his summers in Canada, and they recommended he join the team.
“It was a no brainer,” Greentree says, considering the coaching staff and Fairbanks’ reputation a great hockey town.
Since his freshman year, Greentree has consecutively held the top shooter position and was named most valuable player last season. Things are already looking great this season for Greentree. He’s been named on several occasions the Central Collegiate Hockey Association’s Player of the Week, and his pulled off his first collegiate hat trick versus the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks in a mere 11 minute span in the first period.
Recently Greentree scored a second hat trick versus Lake Superior State ending the game 3-1. Greentree says that he couldn’t do it without his teammates.
“[They’re] all on the same page and we all get along,” he says.
Along with great teammates comes a fan base that Greentree describes as “people that aren’t your typical down in the mid-west Americans.” Instead, they’re people that know their hockey, he says.
The only downside Greentree has found playing for the ‘Nooks is the travel and long flight delays. Layovers can last four to five hours, just adding to already long flights from Lower 48 games.
After regular team practices, Greentree is often seen putting in additional time on the ice working on getting stronger on his skates and his already formidable shot.
Along with his hockey career at UAF, Greentree is majors in justice, though he admits he’s not exactly sure what he’ll do with the degree. Maybe he’ll become police officer, he says.
He’s also a big fan of cooking shows and testifies that deep down in his heart what he would truly like to do is become a chef and run own his restaurant.
For the time being though, Greentree is focused on this year’s season, hoping to get a scholarship and perhaps even a National Hockey League contract.
With a boyish grin and laid back demeanor, Greentree, always anxious to get back on the ice, leaves with a lasting comment: “This year’s team is going to make some noise in the playoffs.”
And Kyle Greentree, No. 39, will surely be the loudest one there.