Jody Green goes to work every day with a huge smile on his face.
The Gulfport native is in his first year as an assistant athletic trainer for the New York Islanders, an National Hockey League franchise in Brooklyn, New York.
Green has been associated with pro hockey for 21 years, but this is his first year in the NHL.
“It still hasn’t set in that I work in the NHL,” Green said. “It’s been amazing. I want to make the most of every day. I’m excited to come to work every day. I get to work with some of the world’s best hockey players. I’m always asking myself: How can I play a role in the team winning the Stanley Cup?”
Green didn’t grow up with hockey, but his love for the sport began during the Mississippi Sea Wolves’ inaugural season in 1996. He helped with equipment in the visiting clubhouse for the then-ECHL franchise. The experience inspired Green to play goalie both on the ice and in-line hockey at the Harrison County Skate Park later that year. He eventually became the Sea Wolves’ emergency goalie.
The 2002 Gulfport High School graduate credits former Sea Wolves coach Bruce Boudreau, former players Bob Woods, Steffon Walby, Chuck Thuss and trainer Mike Ermatinger for his start in pro hockey. The Sea Wolves eventually won the ECHL’s Kelly Cup championship in 1999.
Woods, Walby and Thuss all played on the Sea Wolves’ championship team. Woods and Walby later became Sea Wolves’ head coaches. Green was an sports medicine intern under Ermatinger, the Sea Wolves’ trainer. Thuss is a former goalie for the Sea Wolves, which suspended operations for the 2008-09 season.
“I was able to learn a lot at an early age being around in the early years of the Sea Wolves,” Green said. “Walby allowed me to work with team as an athletic trainer. They saw that I wanted to be an athletic trainer.”
Thuss remembered Green’s dedication to pursuing a hockey career with the Sea Wolves.
“Jody’s the epitome of the American dream,” Thuss said. “He put in the long hours and worked hard. He’s a top-level person and the hardest worker I know. It brought me to tears when he reached the NHL. I couldn’t be happier for him reaching the NHL. I believe he’ll have a long career in the NHL.”
While Green was earning a kinesiology-athletic training degree at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, he worked two years as the assistant equipment manager for the Louisiana Ice Gators in 2004-05. At that time, he was one of the youngest head equipment managers in pro hockey history. Green received his degree at ULL in 2007.
The 33-year-old took a short break from his hockey dream to earn a master’s degree in athletic training at Alabama in 2008 while serving as trainer for the Lady Tide’s volleyball team.
Green resumed his hockey aspirations with the Houston Aeros, an affiliate with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild in 2008. He first served as the interim head equipment manager for 20 games in 2008-09, later promoted to head trainer. After the American Hockey League club relocated to Des Moines and became the Iowa Wild, he remained the team’s head trainer.
“I owe a lot to the Wild organization,” Green said. “They allowed me to develop and build relationships. It’s amazing to bond with so many people.”
For a moment, Green was reunited with Boudreau, who became the Minnesota Wild’s head coach in the spring of 2016. Woods was hired as a Wilds’ assistant coach in the off-season.
“Seeing Bruce in training camp was surreal,” Green said. “I didn’t know if he would remember me.”
Woods isn’t surprised at Green’s climb atop the NHL ladder.
“Jody’s a great kid, a hard worker and is very dedicated,” Woods said. “He made the most of his opportunity. Everybody’s rooting for him.”
Two months ago, Green was hired as the Islanders’ assistant athletic trainer to continue his rise up the ladder. He doesn’t mind dealing with lacerations, broken noses, broken jaws, dislocated shoulders and torn ACLs during a grinding 82-game season.
“It’s unbelievable to know everything I started doing years ago when the NHL goal was so far away and it paid off,” Green said. “Being from the South sets me apart from others in this sport.”
About the series
Our Kind of People is a feature in the Sun Herald and at SunHerald.com that spotlights South Mississippi people whose life or work is an inspiration to others.