Despite his last name, Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green is hardly a newbie when it comes to hard-hitting, goal-scoring hockey. In his second full NHL season, Mike led all defensemen in scoring with 18 goals. He finished his ’09 campaign, again on top, with more than 30 goals and 40 assists. We sat down with the Calgary, Alberta, native to talk about his early days on the ice, hockey in the U.S., and his advice for aspiring NHLers.
STACK: Why did you start playing hockey?
Mike Green: All my buddies played hockey. I used to play soccer and baseball until I was 9 years old, and I was getting bored in the winters doing nothing, so I decided to start up. I wanted to play so bad on their teams, because they all played together, so I decided to work that much harder to catch up.
STACK: Who are some NHL players you admired?
MG: Scott Niedermayer was [my] biggest influence. He is a world-class player. He has been playing in the league forever, and he’s still just as good as he was when he was young.
STACK: You have been one of the top scoring defensemen over the past few years. Have you ever thought about playing forward?
MG: Everyone thought I should play forward, but I never wanted to. I always wanted to be a defenseman because of my idols in the NHL.
STACK: What advice would you offer to younger players who dream of playing in the NHL?
MG: To separate yourself from other players, and concentrate on skating. If you can skate, you can develop your hands later. At the pro level, you’ve got to be able to skate, because guys are much stronger and faster. [You should also] make sure you are getting your proper rest, food and nutrition. Those things are going to help you. You are always going to be yourself on the ice, but if you can have that extra step off the ice, then you are going to be that much better.
STACK: How important is team unity when it comes to hockey?
MG: It’s huge. Playing in Hershey [his former AHL team] and winning a Cup, it’s all about team unity. If we didn’t have the togetherness that it took to win, we wouldn’t have won. You can have all the talent in the world on your team, [but] if you don’t put it all together, then you won’t go very far.
STACK: What are some things you do to create that sense of family and team unity?
MG: A lot of times, guys don’t hang out much because they have families, kids and stuff. But with Washington, a lot of us are younger. We hang out a lot together, so we kind of know each other off the ice, and it goes onto the ice. They are a great group of guys, and everything adds up, and before you know it you’re becoming successful.