By @MichaelCaples –
TRENTON – If you look closely at the children participating in a weeklong hockey camp at the Kennedy Ice Arena in Trenton, Mich., you will notice that almost all of them have autographs on their sticks and jerseys.
When the organizer of the camp is Trenton’s hometown hero, that’s understandable.
Every summer, New Jersey Devils captain Andy Greene returns to his hometown of Trenton, ready to train a new group of hockey players at the local rink.
The Andy Greene Hockey School, as it is known, has been in operation for the last six years, and for the camp founder, it’s a must for each NHL offseason.
“I grew up in this great community here in Trenton,” said Greene, whose No. 6 from his Trenton High School days hangs in the rafters of Kennedy. “It’s a small community, everyone knows each other. I had a lot of help growing up, a lot of influences, a lot of people that gave me opportunity to do certain things, made me the person I am today, and it’s a way for me to give back to not just the hockey side of it, but everyone in the community – the kids, whether they’re just starting out to play hockey or they’re good hockey players.
“It’s a way for me to give back to them and let them appreciate it.”
The camp bears Andy’s name, but he’s not the only member of the Greene family that has made the camp so successful. With this year’s camp complete, Greene’s mother, Linda, may get a week or two to catch her breath before getting back to work.
Andy – a Miami RedHawks alum and three-time CCHA First-Team honoree – may spend most of his time on the ice in New Jersey or other NHL cities, but his own hockey mom spends an estimated 50 weeks a year working on the next edition of the youth camp.
“There’s about two weeks a year she doesn’t do any work for it, and about two weeks after this is done, that’s when she takes a few weeks off and doesn’t think about it,” Andy said with a proud smile. “But after that, it’s back to making sure we’ve got the ice time for next year, start ordering jerseys, everything, everything that we need, all the paperwork, everything that needs to be done. It’s a lot of work, and I know we all appreciate it, I know all the parents really appreciate everything that she does for us.”
In talking with Linda, it’s evident that she takes a great deal of pride in the school.
“I do love it,” she said. “I always tease, I say I work one week a year, but I spend 50 weeks getting ready for it. I do love it, it’s really fun. Andy, his agency oversees the legality of everything, but he wanted just to make sure that the product on the ice is a quality product and that it’s what he wants and that it represents him, so I kind of keep an eye on all of that. And the registration, the paperwork, the insurance forms and all that, and I order the jerseys, I do some merchandising. I do really enjoy it.
“The workload comes and goes. In February, we open registration. This year, we were full in ten days in the squirt and pee-wee categories, so we have waiting lists in those categories. It gets a little bit of a load and we have to begin hiring instructors and begin working on merchandising with hats and t-shirts, so it’s spread throughout the year, so it’s not like I’m slammed, but there’s administrative stuff that has to be done and legal stuff and filing for licenses and all that kind of stuff, but it’s fun, I love it.”
The Greene family started the camp as a way to give back to the local hockey community in Trenton and the surrounding area, but it has evolved into much more.
“We just love the interaction with the community,” Linda Greene said. “The proceeds from the camp go back to the community. After all the bills are paid and the instructors and everything, we make donations to various hockey teams, we support the Trenton varsity baseball team because Andy played varsity baseball and then the Trenton varsity hockey team we recently donated $1,000 a year scholarship to the Trenton Education Foundation. And then the local teams, we do have Grosse Ile kids, a lot of kids from different areas, but we just see where most of the kids are coming from and then make the donations back to that group there.”
The Andy Greene Hockey School has been operating on such a consistent basis that some of the first campers are now working as instructors. While Linda Greene raved about the entire staff – featuring the likes of Kyle Schempp, Luke Strand and John Kisil – she was happy to share the fact that instructors Chase McLane and Caleb Kneiding were once pee wees under Andy’s summer tutelage.
For McLane – a recent Brown commitment who plays for Little Caesars – the ‘full-circle’ moment of becoming an instructor at his former hockey school is special.
“First coming here, it was pretty cool,” McLane said. “I got to learn from one of the best players in the NHL. Coming back now as an instructor, it’s cool to teach all these kids what I know, what I’ve learned from Andy along the way and what I’ve learned from everybody else. It’s a great experience, all around.
“Having them growing up, knowing they’ve learned from me – it’s pretty cool.”
The Greene family’s goal is to make sure the kids have fun at the weeklong camp, while also learning a thing or two both on and off the ice.
“The kids had a really good time,” Linda Greene said. “We have them in the pool too – we do the on-ice and then we do off-ice every day, and we have the use of the Kennedy Recreation Center. We teach the kids that you don’t always have to be on the ice – they do cardio work out in the pool, they do relays in the pool, just to show them another option. I think that might make us unique, a little bit more unique. That’s fun. The parents, I just get wonderful things from the parents, and it’s always good to hear that.”
“It was another great week, another great turnover. The kids had a lot of fun this week, instructors, we all had a lot of fun. They were great this week – they worked really hard. We really enjoyed it, it was a really good week.
This is the sixth year I believe, so each year, we’ve tried to make improvements to make sure it’s the best camp around. …A lot of it falls on the instructors and obviously my mom and the people behind the scenes that do all the work and make it a very fun and enjoyable week.”
And Mrs. Greene couldn’t be more proud of her son for everything he has done in Trenton and beyond.
“What can I say, he’s wonderful,” Linda Greene said. “He’s never changed. He is the same Andy Greene that he was when he left here… He’s an education major so he loves the kids, his interaction with the kids is unbelievable. He is out there all the time, he never complains – he looks forward to it. I say, ‘Andy, how many years do you want to do this?’ He goes, ‘I’m fine, Mom, as long as you keep doing it.’ I said, ‘OK, that’s fine.’ His character, his morals, that’s stuff you just can’t… he does have three older brothers that keep him in line, so there’s probably no chance that he’s ever going to change, but that he can just be who he is and still be who he was.”