Ten years ago, A.J. Greer stood outside the home of the Montreal Canadiens with some bigger priorities in mind.
Yes, he wanted to play in the Bell Centre someday, but at the moment, the name on the back of his jersey was more important than the name on the front.
That’s because the name on the back was “Gabrielle,” a girl about the same age as A.J. who was suffering from childhood cancer. Greer was outside the arena with a tin can in hand, raising money for the children’s hospital.
The rest of the country caught on to his efforts. Greer’s team was featured on Hockey Night In Canada. The NHL pitched in, donating auction items including a signed Alex Ovechkin helmet. Greer helped his team raise $30,000 one year.
Greer’s priorities haven’t changed, even now that he has played in the NHL. The Rampage forward spent much the free time in his first professional season visiting children in San Antonio hospitals.
For his efforts, Greer has been awarded the Yanick Dupré Memorial Award as the AHL’s Man of the Year. He is the first player in Rampage history to win the award.
Greer often visited area Methodist Hospitals, and showed his enthusiasm for helping children throughout the Rampage’s Face Off Against Kids Cancer initiative and Silver & Black Give Back’s Team Up Challenge. He also emceed a local St. Baldrick’s Foundation event that raised more than $88,000 for children’s cancer research, shaving his head to raise a few more dollars.
Greer will be recognized before Friday’s Rampage game against the Texas Stars at 7:30 p.m. at the AT&T Center.
“I’m just lucky to have the opportunity to give back,” Greer said. “It’s important for me to show gratitude to those fighting for their lives.”
Greer’s motivation starts with the hospitals his family spent time in when he was growing up. His older brother, Christopher-James Greer, was born with a brain disorder called hydrocephalus, a fluid buildup on the brain. A.J. would often visit his brother in the hospital, and found himself spending time with other patients in the hospital’s playroom or going to other rooms himself.
“Seeing kids there who couldn’t have the same childhood that I had really affected me,” Greer said. “I wanted to connect with them and make them feel a little better. We only have a short time on earth, and my parents instilled in me to do what I can to help others with that time.”
Greer said the award isn’t just for him, but for his family emphasizing the importance of service. For the doctors and nurses at San Antonio’s Methodist Hospital, who are with the patients every day. And doctors and nurses everywhere, who help families like Greer’s get to tomorrow.
“I think this award means way more for me personally because it can affect other people,” Greer said. “I hope it can motivate to give back, to be able to put a smile on someone’s face.
Greer had an impressive rookie season on the ice in San Antonio, recording 15 goals and 23 assists in 63 games. He was selected to the AHL All-Star Game and also was called up to Colorado for the first time in November, recording his first NHL point with an assist in five games.
When Greer talks about his time in San Antonio, it isn’t any goal or play. It’s kids like Ethan and Seth.
“Ethan is 13, and we’ll play Xbox together,” Greer said. “We try to talk every day so he knows he has someone he can talk to. Seth is an 8-year-old cancer patient, and one of the most intelligent kids you’ll ever meet.”
The number of teammates Greer has in San Antonio grows by the day.
-Lorne Chan, SARampage.com