Never down, Greene back on top
GRAND FORKS — Matt Greene said that, at one time, playing for Michigan State was the “be-all, end-all” for him.
Plan B worked out OK.
Greene played college hockey in Grand Forks for three years. On Friday night, he lifted the Stanley Cup for the second time, once again as the proud co-owner of hockey’s grandest prize.
For those who have followed the career of the Los Angeles Kings’ alternate captain, it’s no surprise.Greene has been a captain and a winner at nearly every stop along his winding career. He’s never let a little bit of adversity get in the way.
As a young player, Greene was switched from forward to defense. He embraced it and became a dominant, physical defenseman.
When he was turned down by his dream school, he went and found a home at UND. Greene would eventually become a team captain, lead UND to the national championship game and discover a place that has become a second home.
His road wasn’t always smooth at UND, either.
As a freshman, coach Dean Blais once sent him to the dressing room mid-game for taking too many penalties. As a junior, he was the one who had to answer all the questions about why UND was hovering around the .500 mark in January.
“We had struggles all the way through that year,” said Dave Hakstol, who was a first-year coach that 2004-05 season. “Guys like Greene, Rory McMahon, Matt Jones, Andy Schneider, were all character guys. Matt was wearing the ‘C’ and everything came back to him. When the team went through rocky times, he handled them very well. When he had some tough personal times, he handled those very well.
“He was always a real steady, focused guy going out and worrying about what he can control.”
Come the end of that season, Greene and UND were nearly unbeatable. To this day, that is the only team to beat Boston College in a Worcester, Mass., Regional.
Not much has changed today.
Greene missed a chunk of this season with an injury, but worked his way back into the lineup.
He was a healthy scratch in the Los Angeles Kings’ first playoff game this year and he registered a minus-four rating in their second playoff game. But once again, Greene didn’t let that rattle him or get him off of his game. When he went back into the lineup, he returned to being a force.
The Kings were 3-3 in the six games without Greene in this playoff season and 13-7 with him in the lineup. CBC named him the No. 2 star of Game 3 in the Finals against the New York Rangers for his outstanding defensive play.
Los Angeles followed the lead of its alternate captain this playoff season.
Although the Kings trailed 3-0 in a first-round series against the San Jose Sharks, they never got rattled. They battled back and won the series in seven games. They won two more Game 7s en route to the Finals. The road eventually led to Friday.
At the end of the long night, there was Matt Greene, holding the Stanley Cup high over his head, on top of the hockey world again.