For many in Canada, learning to skate goes stride for stride with learning how to walk. But Nick Greer tells a different tale – he wasn’t bitten by the hockey bug until later in life … now he’s hooked.
The Blackie, Alta., native was almost in his teens before he laced up his skates for the first time.
As he watched his friends grow up and play the game, Greer decided in the sixth grade he wanted to give it a shot. Before fully committing to the sport at 11 years old, Greer’s family saw an opportunity through the Hockey Canada Skills Academy offered at the Blackie School.
“My mom wanted me to sign up [for the HCSA] before I played hockey to see if I even liked it or not and if I actually wanted to play and commit to it.” said Greer, who is now a Grade 11 student.
“Nick was very reluctant to join because he had very little skating experience,” explained Brian Erickson, Greer’s HCSA instructor. “After the first week on the ice, he felt he didn’t fit in well enough with his skills to continue.”
With the primary focus of the HCSA on individual playing skills and self-esteem, Erickson knew that if Greer stuck with it, his hockey skills would improve.
“Nick had such great determination and overall physical skills,” said Erickson. “As a player and student Nick soaked up everything you gave him.”
“It was difficult, I wasn’t very good and everyone else in the program was good at hockey already so I was lagging behind, but I slowly got better,” said Greer.
The love of the game seemed to overpower the first-time jitters, and now Greer, who is getting ready for his seventh season in the Foothills Minor Hockey Association, wishes he would have started playing earlier.
“It teaches you how to work as a team and how to communicate with other people,” said Greer. “Before I started playing hockey I was really shy, and now I’m not nearly as shy.”
“It was amazing to watch his improvement on his community teams over the years,” Erickson said. “He turned out to be a very important part of the ‘A’ teams in our community.”
While many Canadian kids dream of one day playing in the NHL, Greer has his eyes on a different career path, hoping to go to SAIT after high school and pursue an education as an electrician.
But the hockey bug has bitten down hard, and he plans to continue to strap on the skates in one form or another for the rest of his life.
“I would have rather started [playing] when I was younger, it would have made things easier and I probably would have been better than I am now,” said Greer. “Hockey has taught me how to work for things, that not everything comes easy.”