On Feb. 5, Boston University’s Jordan Greenway and Harvard’s Ryan Donato will face off against each other at TD Garden in the opening round of the Beanpot. Fewer than 10 days later, they’ll both be wearing the red-white-and-blue on the other side of the world, taking the ice in Pyeongchang on Feb. 14 against Slovenia for the men’s Olympic team. It’s a rare opportunity for two college hockey players to be on the world’s biggest stage, one that came after the NHL decided not to send its players to the games for the first time in two decades.
“We talked about how it’s kind of funny, when the team was announced,” Greenway says of the quick turnaround between Boston’s biggest tourney and the Olympics. Both players will miss the championship/consolation round while chasing a gold medal. “Obviously, the Beanpot is a great tourney, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
The 25-person roster includes players competing in the minor leagues, foreign leagues, two other college stars (from St. Cloud State and Denver) and an NHL veteran and Boston College grad, 39-year-old Brian Gionta.
“My goal is to be a key player to help the team win, but I also want to learn a lot from the veterans,” Donato says. The Scituate native also has a secret weapon when it comes to Olympic lessons. He leaned on his father, Ted, who played in the 1992 games and is now his head coach at Harvard.
“He might’ve gotten a hint I was on the team before I did, but he let me tell my mom, which was awesome,” Donato says. “His first piece of advice was don’t worry about it till it comes.”
Greenway tapped BU’s Olympic star Mike Eruzione, of the Miracle on Ice fame, for his own guidance. “He told me, it’s such a big event, but you need to know you’re going over there to win a gold medal.”
Greenway will be in the spotlight even more than the rest of his teammates, as he’s the first black player on the U.S. men’s hockey team. It’s an honor that he didn’t even know about till after he was named, and one that the BU junior chalks up to a fluke. If the NHL players were allowed to compete, he figures Dustin Byfuglien and Seth Jones might have gained that distinction this year, but he’s not letting that dampen his enthusiasm over the accomplishment.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be the first of hopefully many,” Greenway says. “There’s not a lot of African Americans playing hockey, and hopefully it’ll allow me to be a role model.”
There’s a number of athletes in the Winter Olympics with Bay State ties, from 2014 bobsled medalist Steve Langton to snowboarders Mike Trapp and Jonathan Cheever. But the biggest Massachusetts contingent will be at the hockey rink. Here are the male and female players taking the ice.