BRANDON — Matt Greenfield sat at his stall inside the Lightning’s practice facility locker room taking off his goalie pads and skates at a glacial pace. He wasn’t in a rush following nearly two hours of on-ice drills.
One could say he was taking it all in.
Greenfield, 24, is one of 29 prospects at this year’s five-day Lightning development camp.
And despite this being his first such camp at the NHL level, he wasn’t anxious or uneasy.
Florida is home for Greenfield — the heat, the familiarity of the area, the flexibility of having a car nearby. It’s comfortable.
Greenfield spent his first 16 years growing up with brother Bryan, who is three years younger, in Parkland. Their house was 10 minutes from the BB&T Center, home of the Panthers.
When Matt was about 8 and really into hockey, his family invested in Panthers season tickets. He and his father or mother would go to the games while Bryan mostly hit the books.
“(Bryan is) a nerd,” Matt said, chuckling, “and he hated hockey. He got dragged out to enough rinks as a child, he wasn’t going to any more.”
The Greenfields had seats six rows from the glass. Matt avidly watched goalie Roberto Luongo, hoping to be in his skates one day.
“I saw my fair share of hockey games there,” he quipped.
Once Matt left Parkland, he moved to Chicago for two years. From there, it was on to Canada to play in the junior Ontario League, then to Nebraska for six months to compete with the Tri-City Storm of the junior United States Hockey League.
He spent another six months with the Junior A West Kelowna Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League before making his way to Calgary, where he spent the past three seasons at the University of Calgary. Last season at Calgary, he led the team with a career-high nine wins and four shutouts.
“They’ve been some awesome experiences,” he said.
It has been almost 15 years since Greenfield’s family has seen him play. His parents drove up from Parkland to watch him in action this week, and Bryan came over from working at a camp in Orlando.
“We don’t get to see each other a ton,” Matt said.
He has a chance to show the Lightning he’s not just any prospect.
“I want to learn,” he said. “I want to showcase what I have, but I want to take in everything that’s taught to me and learn what it takes to play here, what the expectations are and how I can get here.”
And though he was a Panthers fan growing up, he is more than willing to change allegiances. These days he looks up to Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“Vasilevskiy is one of the best, if not the best, goalie in the league,” Greenfield said. “It’s hard not to look up to that guy. He really plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Greenfield is focused on one short-term goal this week: making a good impression.
“It’s special, for sure,” he said. “Everyone grows up dreaming about playing where they grew up.”
Contact Mari Faiello at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @faiello_mari.