Local boy gets golden chance: VIDEO

Published 7:50 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2008

When the NHL’s Minnesota Wild open their season this Saturday night against the Boston Bruins, one of the first skaters on the ice will be a nine-year old Austin boy.

Jace Greenman, a who attends Nevlin Elementary, recently won an online drawing on the Minnesota Wild’s Web Site that allows him to skate at the XCel Energy Center and even take part in the opening ceremonies.

“I get to skate out from behind the net and I go out there right before the pledge of allegiance and I stick the flag right in the ice,” Jace said. “I’m excited, I’m not really nervous.”

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Skating back and forth will be no problem for Jace, who has played hockey since he was three and has roller bladed since he was two.

“He’s a freak when it comes to skating. He’ll be fine,” Jace’s dad, Scott Greenman said. “I think I’m probably more excited than him. He’s gotta do all the work and I’ve just gotta sit there.”

While the opener is a great game to skate in, it was also one of the few open dates for Jace to choose from. After Scott Greenman received the call that Jace was one of the youths selected to skate the flag out during the season, he was given 24 hours to pick a game.

“A bunch of them were already picked, so we ended up with the home opener, which I think is better anyway,” Scott said.

Before the game, Jace will be able to skate on the ice for about an hour before warm-ups start. If any players take the ice, he’ll be able to interact with them.

“Hopefully he gets to meet a few guys and get some autographs,” Scott said.

It wouldn’t be the first time Jace met an NHL player as he has already talked to some players in the past when the Wild Road Tour has stopped by Austin.

Hockey has always been a big part of Jace’s life as he began playing out of habit. The youngster now practices about three hours per week and has a tarp shaped like a goal in his dad’s garage to practice his slapshot on.

“He’s just busy all the time,” Scott said. “It was winter and we always skated in the winter. That’s just what we did and it kind of got him started.”

After he runs the flag out to center ice, Jace will take a seat and watch his favorite team — the Wild — play hockey. Not a bad way get in the spirit of the NHL season.

“When I found out, I said wow,” Jace said. “A lot of people signed up so I got pretty lucky.”

Chris Greenman thinks the experience will help his son in his hockey dreams. But he wishes he had more opportunities in Austin.

“It would be nice to have some camps go on here in Austin,” Scott said. “We could have a lot of those if we had summer ice instead of having to drive to Albert Lea or Winona.”

The Wild and Bruins will play at 7 p.m. Saturday. The game will be broadcast on FSN North.