By Jackie Maczkiewicz
After spending a full year and only one week on campus in the first semester, former ice hockey player Greg Elz has found his way onto a Junior A Hockey Team.
Elz, 20, was living with his parents in Selden, and started the semester never expecting to get a phone call that could possibly change his life. Just after school had started; Greg took a weekend to go upstate in Albany to gain experience in playing in a professional rookie camp. It was a good decision on his part because on Sept. 10, he became an official member on the roster of UJHL’s (United Junior Hockey League) team, the Philadelphia Thunder, also known as the Philly Thunder.
That’s right, Philadelphia, as in Pennsylvania. Was Greg ready to pick up everything and move to a different state leaving his family, a girlfriend of two years, and school behind? Of course he was. The UJHL is a big deal in the hockey world, as it is one of the divisions where people have been found and been able to move up to professional teams in the NHL. Elz was forced to pack up everything he had, drop out of school for the time being and live in the “hockey house” as they call it or find his own means. Fortunately for him, he has some family living in Philadelphia and chose to live at his grandmother’s.
Elz is well-known here on campus, and was a huge part of the ice hockey team. He was the leading point defensive scorer last season, having the most points of all defensemen. His standings last season were three goals, and eight assists for a total of 11 points. He also had 14 penalty minutes in only six games, which were all wins.
“We are all extremely proud of Greg right now. He’s a good guy and he’s always been there for us,” said former teammate Max Stern, who still currently plays both ice and roller hocky on campus. “As much as it isn’t cool to not have him on our roster, we are pretty stoked for him. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and we all really hope it works out for him. Now it’s our turn to support him as much as we can.” Stern said.
Stern said he also had the pleasure of being on several teams with Elz, on other outside men’s leagues. “It doesn’t matter what team the kid plays for, whatever team he’s on, they’re already winning. He knows how to get the job done and keep everyone’s head into the game. Were going to miss him for sure,” Stern said.
If this is how a good friend and former teammate feels I was curious to see how his girlfriend felt after finding out that her love would be moving so far away. Diana Cancro, also 20-years-old, and a student at BOCES Beauty School, has been Greg’s girlfriend for the last two years. Being a hockey fan definitely helps, but what is it like to have a loved one who you are used to seeing everyday being three hours away?
“It’s really, really, difficult. It’s like I lost my best friend in a way, but I support every decision he makes and I’m extremely proud of him. I know he’s happy and although it’s hard not seeing him like I used to, we make it work,” said Cancro said, who goes to school Monday through Friday and works nights and has been trying to get off every weekend she possibly can for a three-hour tript to Philadelphia to see Elz.
“I’m not sure if I can say if I like it or not yet. It is still early into the season. But, it is a change,” Elz said. After being asked how the transition has been to the new lifestyle. What could be next after the UJHL? “From this team I can go a number of places. My head coach and general manager is Jimi Simmons who is the head scout and assistant coach for the Elmira Jackals in the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) which is the league right below the NHL/AHL. A couple of players from his team last year played a few games for them. We are also affiliated with the Detroit Hitmen in the AAHL (All American hockey league) which is a single, a minor pro league. So if they need players due to injury or anything they can pull players from my team,” Elz said.
Elz is also having the chance to travel; recently he was in Ohio playing against teams there.
For more information on Philly Thunder, visit http://www.phillythunder.com Here you can see stats, pictures, and game schedules for the team.