Sports > Schools
Tornado Alley: Success funnels in for local players
Hockey might not be the most prominent sport in the Metroplex.
However, that hasn't stopped three Plano natives from enjoying success on the ice for the Frisco-based Texas Tornado.
Members of the 28-team National American Hockey League, the Tornado are set to host the 2012 Robertson Cup National Championship, opening play tonight against Amarillo.
"Every year, we're expected to win it," said Jordan Greenberg, forward from Plano. "That makes it a better environment because winning is just expected."
Since the team's inception in 1999, Texas has won seven NAHL division titles, had seven straight 40-win seasons (1999-2006) and taken home three straight National Championships (2004-2006).
That success has allowed the team to move more than 120 players to the NHL, NCAA and other professional teams.
Greenberg joins his younger brother, Justin, and forward Marc Biggs as the latest local products looking to join the Tornado alumni with further careers in hockey.
"Hockey is pretty much our lives," Biggs said. "It's pretty much all we do."
Players must endure the grind of daily afternoon practices and workouts, while many of their peers sit in the classroom or work place.
"Our friends are all in college and doing homework," Biggs said. "And we play hockey. We're kind of living the dream."
After moving up through the ranks in Plano, the Greenberg brothers took their high school careers to Spring Creek Academy while Biggs hit the ice for The Alexander School in Richardson.
"It wasn't until high school that I really focused on it," Justin said.
With hockey drawing smaller crowds than other sports in the area, many high school hockey players aren't immediately aware of different options for continuing their careers.
"You don't really hear about Juniors until you're 16 or 17 years old in Texas," Jordan said. "It's not really a traditional hockey league."
For Biggs and the Greenbergs, the Tornado were an ideal fit in order to kick start any potential hockey careers.
"I wanted to try out for sure," Jordan said. "I wasn't sure I could make it though."
Since making the team, the 20-year-old Jordan has tallied 13 goals and 48 assists in 49 games played. He has also racked up 159 shots on goal and helped the Tornado outscore the opposition by 22 goals when on the ice. For 17-year-old Justin, the transition has been an easy one as well. The forward has scored 10 goals and assisted on 18 more in 39 games while accumulating a plus-19 during his time in the game.
The success for both began when Jordan saw a friend playing hockey and decided he wanted to give it a try.
Naturally, Justin picked up the sport soon thereafter.
"I started playing because my brother played," he said.
The beginning of Biggs' career wasn't too different.
The 6-foot-4 forward watched his cousin playing when he was just 4 years old and then started playing roller hockey.
"Three years later, I went to ice," Biggs said.
The three Plano natives are now part of a team that has one goal on its mind.
"You always want to win [the Robertson Cup]," Jordan said. "There is a lot of tradition here."
This year will mark the second time the Tornado have hosted the event. The tournament was held in Frisco during the 2004 season and ended with the cup staying in the Metroplex.
"It would make it 10 times better to win it here," Biggs said.
If team chemistry is any indication, this year's team has what it takes to duplicate past success for the franchise.
"With this team, no one dislikes each other," Jordan said. "We all hang out with each other, which makes it a lot better. If we hated each other, no one would ever want to come to the rink."
Texas' tournament-opening pool play game against the Amarillo Bulls is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Dr Pepper Arena. The Tornado will then take on the Port Huron Fighting Falcons and St. Louis Bandits at the same time on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Bismarck Bobcats and Fairbanks Ice Dogs are part of the field too, with games also running at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Dr Pepper Arena. There are no games Sunday due to the NAHL Banquet of Champions, which will feature Dallas Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan as the keynote speaker.
If the Tornado advance, it will play in the semifinals Monday with the championship game set for the following night.
"Playing in front of your friends and family is fun," Biggs said. "Not a lot of players in our league get to experience that."
Despite the Robertson Cup clashing with finals week for many players, Jordan believes Texas is well-prepared for a long tournament run.
"We're all pretty confident," he said. "We've been working really hard and fine-tuning certain things. I think we feel prepared and confident heading into it.”