Had a great chat with former T-Birds forward Greg Scott not to long ago. He was getting ready to move to Toronto to spend the summer practicing and training with the AHL Marlies and their parent team, the Maple Leafs. We also talked about his four years with Seattle and how his WHL experience has helped him grow as a player... and as a person.
Read on to see what he has to say about the first time he ever laced up a pair of skates, why he has so much love for the Seattle Ronald McDonald House, and how he caught the eye of Toronto's GM without even realizing it.
(Originally posted at king5.com)
We continue our conversations with Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips players who have graduated out of the WHL, and are taking their next steps on the path to make their hockey dreams come true. Today, we catch up with T-Birds winger Greg Scott, who is just as well known for his sense of humor and friendliness off the ice, as his ability to not only score goals, but set up scoring chances for his line mates.
Greg wrapped up his fourth year with the T-Birds with a stellar season. He led the in goals (32) and assists (44) for 76 points. His plus/minus rating was a whopping +14. He registered 6 assists in 5 post season games, as Seattle fell to a strong Spokane Chiefs team in the first round. Immediately after the T-Birds’ season ended, Greg headed to Toronto, to join the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate Marlies. He didn’t play in any games, but practiced and worked out with the team and watched them advance to the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs, where they lost in 6 games to eventual Calder Cup finalists, Manitoba Moose.
When I caught up with Greg a couple of weeks ago, he was home in Victoria, BC, preparing to move to Toronto. You see, the Maple Leafs have invited him and several other players to spend the summer training intensively with the Leafs. However, he jovially took a few minutes to chat about his time with the T-Birds, how he caught the eye of Toronto’s GM without even realizing it, the teammate he says may just be funnier than he is, and the yearly team project he calls a “win-win” situation for players and the children at Seattle’s Ronald McDonald House.
KING: What’s the difference between the Marlies and Thunderbirds?
GS: Well, the WHL is a lot younger. The WHL is 16 to 20 year olds and the AHL is 20 to however old. The guys are a lot stronger. Everyone was real friendly and the guys were a lot stronger and bigger and faster. It’s quite a big step but it was good to get experience there.
It’s a big step. Of course, everyone wants to go to the NHL; that’s their main goal. And the AHL is just one step away. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to get there. In the end, we want to make it to the NHL, obviously but the step from the WHL to the AHL is still a pretty big step.
KING: I was reading up about you and I did not know that you did not get drafted as a Bantam, nor were you drafted by the NHL, but yet here you are. How did you end up on the T-Birds?
GS: I was passed up on the Bantam draft. To be honest with you, I didn’t even know what the Bantam draft was. I wasn’t familiar with it. I was passed up and some person I knew got drafted and I was like, “what’s that? What’s this Bantam draft?” And when I was 16 and playing for the Peninsula Panthers Junior B team, Bryan Bridges played goalie on the Seattle Thunderbirds. His dad was my coach. So he kinda told the Thunderbirds about me and the Thunderbirds came and scouted me and they listed me when they came and saw me so, it was good. I went and tried out for the Thunderbirds and played four years there so it worked out pretty good.
KING: I recently interviewed Bud Holloway and he said the most awesome line he was part of (with the T-Birds) was a line with you and Lindsay Nielsen. I thought you did a great job with Prab Rai and Jim O’Brien last season. I think that rivals it. How do you feel about that?
GS Any line that I play on, I’m just gonna go and work hard, but last year, me, Bud and Nielsen, we had really good chemistry. We got put together and we just took off, I guess. Neely did his job, he was the center on our line and he played really well for us and Bud, he can score anywhere on the ice, it seemed. That was just good chemistry right there, but also with Prab Rai, he’s got unbelievable speed so if I give him the puck and he’s going down the wing, he can make a lot of chances out of nothing.
Me, Jim and Prab only played on a line for about 10 games, roughly. I think it was right after Jim O’Brien got back from World Juniors. But then we were put on a line with me, Prab and Jon Parker, who’s a rookie and he did really well for us. He’s got a great shot, good hands; a pretty quick little guy. Playing with Prab, he’s so fast, so smart and smooth skating, it’s just an honor to play on his line. He’s such a tremendous player.
KING: Well, you seem like the type of guy who could pretty much adapt to any line and just really make it a lot better. Bud really misses playing on a line with you.
GS: Me, Bud and Neely definitely had great chemistry. I loved playing with Neely. I loved playing with Bud. Bud’s got such great skill. You give him the puck and he’s gonna do good things. I’m just in the right spot at the right time and got put on a line with him. We just connected and it was awesome.
KING: You didn’t get drafted by the NHL but you got signed by Toronto. How did that come about?
GS: I got passed over in the NHL draft and I was pretty upset, but my first two years I really didn’t have good enough numbers to get drafted. That didn’t really get me down. I kept working and I think it was playoffs against Kelowna when I was 19, the Maple Leafs were there to watch Luke Schenn (current defenseman/Toronto Maple Leafs). I think me and Schenn, we were going at it pretty good against each other and GM of the Maple Leafs t the time, Cliff Fletcher, was there scouting Schenn and he asked who I was, and that all started from there, so yeah, it worked out.
I had a rookie tournament at the middle of September. We played that then we went to the Toronto Maple Leafs main camp and I got sent down to the AHL team (Toronto Marlies). They kept me all the way until just before their first regular season game, then said I’d probably develop more if I played in the WHL since I’ll get more playing time. It actually worked out good. I think I gained a lot more experience playing in the WHL one more season.
KING: How old were you when you started playing hockey?
GS: I was 5 years old, I think. My brother started playing first. He’s two years older than me. I guess I looked up to him at the time and I wanted to play hockey too. I don’t remember this too well but my dad says that the first time I tried on skates, I was the worst skater he’s ever seen. He said it was like I was running on ice. But he said, ‘I’ll keep him in hockey as long he’s having fun.’ And eventually I guess I got it, got how to skate and stuff.
KING: It‘s really is important when you first start that it is about fun, isn’t it?
GS: Yeah, it is. I was just going out there in minor (youth) hockey just because my brother did it, I wanted to do it and met a lot of friends through hockey and then I just kept on doing it. I always dreamed of playing in the NHL but I didn’t know if I could do it. As the years go on, you start gaining a lot of confidence. I got scouted by Seattle. That was a big step for me and then I got signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s just one step at a time. It is all about fun at the very start but there’s a point where it is fun but it’s also business, too.
KING: How old are you when you moved into a higher skilled league?
GS: When I was 16, I was playing for a Junior B team just outside of Victoria and that was decently competitive and back when I was 16 I thought that was the NHL almost, and just thought that was the best league there is. I did pretty well there and eventually, Seattle took me and I went to Seattle. I thought Junior B was serious, then I went to Seattle and found out just how serious it was there. From Junior B to the WHL it’s bigger guys, faster, better players, all that, but you learn to adapt pretty quickly. After the first few games, I wasn’t sure. I was almost doubting myself, wondering if I should have just gone to play Junior A and gotten a scholarship or something. I doubted myself a little bit, but then everything worked out.
KING: How long did it take you to get your feet under you here?
GS: I’d almost say two seasons, in a way. That’s when I really started to take off. There were games when I’d have good games and I felt like I belonged but it really took me about two years to mentally think I’m good enough to play in this league. I wish I could have wrapped my mind around it that it’s just hockey, as long as you compete and battle as hard as anyone else competes.
KING: You were also transitioning from living at home and moving to Seattle. It was almost like changing your life.
GS: That’s actually a pretty big factor in a way. I tried not to make it that big but you’re still pretty young. You’re 16, 17, moving out into someone else’s house and playing for a different team, meeting all new guys, because I didn’t know one guy coming into the league except for the goalie, Bryan Bridges, who I’d played with my 17 year old year. But when I was 16, you’d get home from school with the guys you’d been going to school with your whole life and it’s just comfort at home. When you move to Seattle it might be awkward for a little bit but the billets are unbelievable, the billets I’ve had over the years.
KING: Did you have one billet family for your four years there?
GS: No, I actually had four billets in all four of my years. Every year I had a different billet. I think I might have made a record. I got to meet four families and live in their houses but it was a good experience. My first year, I had a roommate. His name was Clayton Barthel and he’s playing hockey in Germany right now. He was two years older than me so he knew the ropes of the league. It was good to have him because he’s been around the league and knew what to expect. He would kind of take me under his wing and I really appreciated it. The next two years I went solo and lived on my own, which was nice, but in my fourth year I roomed with Steve Chaffin. He’s a really great guy. He’s young but he was already on the team; he wasn’t a rookie and we got along great. He’s a pretty funny guy. I enjoy the odd joke here and there.
KING: I interviewed several players and they all say you are the guy who keeps things loose on the bench or is good for a joke or a prank. How does it feel to know you have the reputation for making your buddies laugh when things are tense?
GS: I’ve had that reputation almost my whole life. I was the class clown. But I could say almost the exact thing about Bud Holloway because Bud Holloway is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. He always has a smile on his face. Everyone got along great so it was easy to make the odd joke here and there.
KING: I heard there’s one joker coming up the ranks this year: Calvin Pickard.
GS: Oh yeah, Calvin’s gonna be there, if he isn’t already there. He’s a funny guy. He’s a great guy too.
KING: How did playing all four years of your WHL career with the T-Bird help you develop as a player?
GS: It helped me develop a lot. I owe pretty much all I know to the coaches there: Rob Sumner, Turner Stevenson, all those guys. They coached me for the past four seasons on a pretty high level. There were guys who bounced around here and there were about four or five of us who stuck around since we were rookies: me, David Richard, Thomas Hickey, Lindsay Nielsen and Jeremy Schappert. I think that’s everyone. We played all our years together so we got pretty close. At first, we were the younger guys getting helped out, then after a couple of years, you’ve gotta kinda take that role because you’re the older guys. It all happened so quickly. I think we handled it pretty well. Oh, I can’t forget Bud Holloway! I only played three seasons with him but he was there too.
KING: How is it going to the same school with your teammates?
GS: When I went to Lake Washington High School, I went in not knowing anybody except the guys that I’d just met, like Thomas Hickey, Bud Holloway, David Richard, all those guys. I’d just met them and now I’m going to school with a bunch of random kids that I’ve never seen before and in another country. Even though Canada and the US are almost the same, it’s definitely different.
KING: You’re dealing with so many different things at the same time: a new level of hockey, living with a strange family, going to school with people you don’t know.
GS: It’s a great life experience. How many kids from my hometown can say they went to high school in the US? It’s definitely a great experience and I met a lot of great people along the way.
KING: We’ve kind of touched upon it a little, but how would you say this whole experience has helped you grow as a person?
GS: Well, when you move away at such a young age, it almost makes you grow up a bit faster than everyone else, because not too many kids move out of their parents’ house when they’re 16 or 17 years old. So, it definitely helps you mature as a person. Along with experiences, you have to deal with a lot of pressure that most people don’t deal with at that age. But it definitely helped me along the way. I probably wouldn’t be the person that I am today without Seattle, without the experience that I gained from there.
KING: The Thunderbirds team up with the Seattle Ronald McDonald House every year for a celebrity hockey classic fundraiser. But players also take time to visit with the kids living at the Ronald McDonald House. This year, you were the focal point of the promotion campaign. (The team spoofed the popular “CSI” series, with Greg Scott and Devon LeBlanc in the lead)
GS: I did “GSI: Greg Scott Investigates” with Devon LeBlanc. Ian Henry asked us to do it and we said sure. We went to the Ronald McDonald House to shoot. It was fun to interview little kids but it was tough because they only gave one-word answers, but you expect that from little kids. But it was awesome. The team loves going there. They’re (the children) going through a lot. Their families are going through a lot and anything we can do to put a smile on their face, it brightens our day- it brightens their day. It’s a win-win situation. The kids wear us out a lot of the time, playing tag and stuff. It’s just fun, seeing the smiles on their faces because you know how hard it is for them right now. Anything we can do to help them forget about it is a bonus.
KING: Will go back to Leafs training camp this year?
GS: I’m actually moving there June first. I’m gonna live there and train there this year. They want me to do that. I think that will help me get used to the city and the workouts that they’re doing. That’s exactly what they want me to do.
KING: How different is Toronto from Seattle?
GS: They’re both huge cities. I hear Toronto gets cold in the winter. I’ve never been there in the winter but I hear it gets pretty cold. I love Toronto, though, it’s big. It’s the “New York” of Canada; I guess you could call it.
KING: It seems that they’re pretty serious about you if they want you to go there and immerse yourself in their culture.
GS: Yeah. I hope so, anyway. They’ve got six or seven of us that are gonna move there from Boston, Newfoundland, Sweden, all those places. They’re having us move there and train there with their staff there.
KING: You spent some time with (former Everett Silvertip d-man) Taylor Ellington when the Marlies and Moose met up in the Calder Cup playoffs.
GS: We played Manitoba in the first round. Taylor Ellington and I grew up playing hockey against each other because he’s from Victoria, too. We actually hung out together when we (Toronto & Manitoba) were playing each other, because we both weren’t playing at the time. (Neither was on his team’s playoff roster).
KING: Now for some fun questions:
Favorite movie: I love comedy and right now it would have to be “Pineapple Express” or “Superbad.”
Favorite player growing up: Joe Sakic. I just loved the Colorado Avalanche growing up. And also Trevor Linden, because I’m a pretty big Canucks fan as well.
Who do you like to watch now? I like to watch the Maple Leafs, of course, and the Canucks. I wish they went further. I like watching Pavel Datsyuk on Detroit. He’s got the best hands I’ve ever seen, or Kovalev on Montreal.
What do you like to do when you’re not playing hockey? I play a lot of video games, but when it’s nice out I like to go to the beach or tubing down this river that’s an hour outside of Victoria. Just hang out and go to the gym.
Music or bands get you pumped up for a game: Well, me and Steve Chaffin, when we lived together, we’d drive together to the game and we’d always play songs that get us pumped up. We always had a random mix. We’d play Eminem, lots of rock, Nickelback’s pretty big. I like listening to Nickelback before a game. It always gets me pumped up.
KING: So, do you like the music Mitch (Brotherton) plays during the game?
GS: Yeah, I do. Mitch plays pretty good music during the game. I wish he would change my goal song, though, but, it’s over now. I don’t even know what it’s called. I asked him to change it but he wouldn’t. I think I requested a couple of songs but he never put them on.
A lot of the guys on the team like country. We have a lot of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta guys. They all love the country. The guys from the west coast like rap and all that.
KING: Did you guys ever argue in the locker room about music?
GS: Yes. Some guys don’t like country music. Others did. There would be a few fights, I guess. Not fights but arguments.
You should ask Bud about his dancing, by the way. He’s an unbelievable dancer. He’s the best dancer I’ve ever seen.
So, by now, Greg is firmly ensconced in Toronto, learning the team’s system and working out with the trainers. Seattle fans have no doubt that he will see his NHL dream come true, hopefully sooner rather than later. The fact that the Maple Leafs invited him to spend the summer working out with the team, is pretty good sign. We’ll check in with him after training camp to see how things are going.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Greg Scott in our short conversation, it’s that he will always do his best, on the ice and off. And he’ll do it with a smile… and the odd joke.