By Ryan Stelter, U SPORTS Men’s Hockey Correspondent
The Sunshine State is not necessarily a hotbed for hockey in North America, but it is where rookie goalie Matthew Greenfield of the Calgary Dinos calls home. Greenfield grew up loving the game of hockey like any other Canadian kid in Parkland, Florida.
Greenfield started his love affair with the game after he started playing street hockey with his neighbour, who was from London, Ont.
“(My neighbour) would always play street hockey with his kid who was four, five years older than me, and I looked up to them,” he said. “So obviously I wanted to play with them and they said ‘Yeah you can play but you got to be goalie.’ So that’s how that got started.”
Greenfield has come a long way from the days of playing street hockey with his neighbour. He grew up playing multiple sports, but hockey was his one true love.
“Hockey was always number one by far,” he said. “I had to quit football in grade five and basketball in grade eight, just because hockey took up way too much time.”
Hockey in Florida is not as accessible as it is in Canada, but Greenfield was able to get ice time. He grew up watching the Florida Panthers and Roberto Luongo in net.
“There are probably four, five rinks in about a 60-mile radius, so not a ton but there’s definitely hockey down there,” Greenfield said. “I was huge fan of the Panthers. Luongo was my favourite goalie from the time I was seven years old until now.”
The six-foot-one goaltender has had a successful junior career, playing in the OHL for the Kitchener Rangers, the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League (USHL) and the West Kelowna Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL). During his short stint with the Warriors, last season Greenfield captured the RBC Cup – the national Junior A Championship - after posting a 48-save shutout against the Llodminster Bobcats in the final.
“That was awesome, it was a special experience,” he said. “We were a family and we fought every day (for each other). We just got hot and went on a run and never looked back.”
It was the connection with West Kelowna that helped Greenfield find a home with the Dinos after his junior career. Head coach Mark Howell was with the Warriors from 2006 to 2008 before coming to the Dinos, and had stayed in touch with the team’s staff. West Kelowna contacted Howell to see if he needed a goalie with Calgary.
“I said I was looking for a goaltender, they said he was the real deal,” Howell said. “We watched him a couple times and I trust those guys out there and they said [Greenfield] is as good as you can get.”
Greenfield was not too familiar with the Canadian university system and Howell needed to educate him on it. Greenfield was getting looks from a couple of Canadian schools, but settled on Calgary.
“I visited Calgary and I really liked the city,” he said. “I liked the history of always being a top team, I liked the coaching staff and it just felt like the right decision.”
Thus far, Greenfield has adjusted well to the level of play in U SPORTS, holding a 7-1 record with a .929 save percentage and a 2.19 goals-against average.
“It’s great hockey, it’s a great league,” Greenfield said. “I think I am adjusting well. It’s definitely a big learning curve from playing 60-plus games to a 28-game season, but I think I’m getting along well.”
Coach Howell is impressed with Greenfield’s play so far this season, making the step from Junior A to Canada West and U SPORTS.
“He’s mature, he’s physically strong, he’s doing great in school,” he said. “He’s very motivated got a great work ethic. He’s just really focused and he doesn’t panic when he’s in the net.”