Finding his skates: Six-year hockey hiatus doesn’t stop Oregon hockey goalie

Oregon goaltender Ben Green (1) reaches to make a save. The Oregon Ducks face the Washington Huskies in game 4 of the I-5 Cup at the Lane County Ice Center in Eugene, Ore. on Jan. 23 2016. (Adam Eberhardt/Emerald)

In the midst of all the pandemonium that Week of Welcome brings, freshman Ben Green was walking past several booths set up for club sports when several people wearing hockey jerseys caught his eye. Green was surprised; he arrived at Oregon thinking the school didn’t have a team.

“I saw a bunch of guys wearing hockey jerseys and I thought ‘What are they doing?’ ” Green said. “Must be a bunch of hockey fans or something.”

He had given up the sport six years prior to play soccer and lacrosse, but called leaving hockey “the biggest regret of [his] life.” Green struck up a conversation with the group and found out they were members of the club hockey team, and they were about to hold tryouts for the upcoming season.

Now, a little more than five months later, Green is the backup goalie for the team.

Green was hesitant to try out at first; he had last played hockey when he was 13. On top of that, he didn’t own any gear, which he said can range anywhere from “15 [hundred dollars] to six grand.” Dues for being a part of the club team were upwards of 2,000 dollars.

He sent a text to his contact on the team, thanking him for the opportunity but respectfully declining the tryout invitation. Later that night he got a response from his contact saying the goalie who had tried out the night before was ineligible for the team, and that if Green wanted, he could use his equipment and skates for the tryout. Green said, “Why not?”

When he told his parents that he was planning on going out for the team, they weren’t quite sure how to react.

“Honestly, we thought he was little bit crazy,” Susie Green, Ben’s mother, said. “He had nothing to try out in, no equipment, nothing at all. But he’s a goalie and goalies are crazy.”

“I was awful the first night,” Green said of his play at tryouts. “I was better the second night, but not to the point where I could really compete.”

He was packing up his gear the second night, when junior forward Nick Sciabarra approached him and told him he made the team. Green was elated, but now a new challenge presented itself: cost.

Green found the cheapest gear he could. Over winter break, he picked up shifts working at home. That, along with the money he had saved up over summer, was just enough to afford new gear and his team dues.

Since joining the team, Green has embraced his role coming off the bench, working in tandem with fellow freshman goalie Jackson Howery. After Howery was suspended for fighting in the I-5 Cup several weeks ago, Green was forced to start in the final game of the series. Even though the Ducks lost that night, head coach Bill Leahy was incredibly proud of how Green played.

“He did fantastic,” Leahy said after the game.

Green is now facing an all-but-empty checking account. His savings are depleted as well. He said he has about 15 dollars to his name, but looking back, he would do nothing different.

“This is the best year of hockey I’ve ever played — best year of any sport I’ve ever played.”

Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @g_amorris

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