IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Jordan Greenway, 1st African-American to play hockey for Team USA, is living his dream

"I love playing the game. I’m honored that it’s me. Hopefully, I'm the first of many,” the 21-year-old said.
/ Source: TODAY

After years of hard work, daily practice and devotion to his greatest passion, hockey player Jordan Greenway's dream has finally arrived: the chance to win the gold for the United States in Pyeongchang.

As the first African-American hockey player on the U.S. Olympic team, he's finally realizing his life goal, and making history while doing it.

Olympic hockey Russia v. USA - Jordan Greenway
Jordan Greenway vies for the puck in the men's ice hockey preliminary match in Pyeongchang.Ed Jones / AFP - Getty Images

The Boston University junior sat down with Craig Melvin to share what it was like shattering expectations as a young child in a small town in upstate New York, and breaking through barriers as the first African-American to represent the United States in ice hockey.

Craig Melvin interviews Jordan Greenway, the first African American Olympic hockey player on Team USA
"Every time you put on a USA sweater and represent your country, it's an unbelievable experience," Greenway told Melvin.TODAY

"I love playing the game. I’m honored that it's me. Hopefully, I'm the first of many," he told Melvin.

Greenway, who just turned 21 on Friday, said he was aware growing up that it wasn't the most common thing to see African-American kids in his sport.

"I think I always kind of knew, but Canton, New York, isn't filled with a lot of African-Americans, I mean, honestly, you know?" he said about his town of 6,000 located near the Canadian border.

"There's like, a rink every two miles, everyone plays hockey, a lot of my family members played hockey. I just kind of grew up on skates at a young age, and loved doing it," he said.

Jordan Greenway as a child
A young Jordan Greenway is ready to hit the ice in Canton, New York.TODAY

Before Melvin got on the ice to show Greenway what he could do with a puck, the Weekend TODAY co-anchor cornered him about the big moment: "There are not a lot of folks who can say they represented Team USA, and here you are now, part of black history now," he pointed out.

Craig Melvin takes on Olympic ice hockey forward Jordan Greenway.
Craig Melvin takes on Olympic ice hockey forward Jordan Greenway.TODAY

Melvin asked Greenway how he felt when he got the news in December that he'd be joining the Olympic team in South Korea.

"Honestly, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet," Greenway said. "But it was probably the best Christmas present I got. It's a special, special moment."

He added: "There might be a little pressure that comes with it, but I'm going to go over there and give my best effort for sure, like I always have, and continue to do what I've done to get me this far."

That kind of pressure won't be a completely new thing for Greenway, who seems to thrive when the heat is on. He's previously represented the United States in three world championships, winning two gold medals.

PyeongChang Ice Hockey
Jordan Greenway reaches for the puck in the men's preliminary match against the Olympic Athletes from Russia during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games.Bruce Bennett / AFP - Getty Images

"Every time you put on a USA sweater and represent your country, it's an unbelievable experience," he said. The towering, the 227-pound forward has a distinct advantage among his teammates on the ice: "It's hard to get around me," he joked.

Though Greenway said he hopes he can be a hero to other kids who love the sport, he has a hero of his own: his mother. She helped pay for a special hockey-centered prep school where he studied as a young teen.

Jordan Greenway and his mom and brother James
Jordan Greenway with his mom and brother, James.TODAY

She's also fostered the hockey success of his younger brother, James, who plays defense at the University of Wisconsin.

"It's an honor. Just, hopefully I’m able to inspire kids, African-American kids, to try and do something different. Hopefully I can just bring them some motivation and inspiration."