Last season our Whale had an outstanding group of rookies, some from day one, and others joining later in the campaign. One of those rookies in the latter category was our #17 Emma Greco, who joined the Whale in January. Emma appeared in seven games for the Whale, bolstering their defense and giving Coach Equale more options to move some other players around and try some new combos. She had an immediate impact, recording twelve blocked shots and continuing the style of play she has exhibited and honed over her career. As Emma described it while still in high school: “I’m definitely a physical player. I’m aggressive but not overaggressive. I’m not going to rush end to end. I’m more defense oriented.” But as she settled into her role with the Whale last season, she did pick up assists in the Whale’s final two regular season games. Cetacean Nation interviewed Emma about the particulars of her “delayed” start to her NWHL career, and the sporting life that brought her to the Pod.
Emma comes from Burlington Ontario, just north of Hamilton and hard by the shores of Lake Ontario. Hockey Country, to be sure. When we asked Emma about this and her start in hockey, we found out her parents knew they were in Hockey Country as well. She told us: “ I started playing hockey when I was five years old. My two older siblings played hockey and soccer, so I followed in their footsteps. After my first year of hockey I told my parents that I wanted to do figure skating instead. In the end my parents declined my request, and signed me up for hockey the following year. Let’s just say I’m very glad they declined my request. Hockey in Burlington was a lot of fun and there was a lot of good players and good competition.” And as Emma was to discover, a wide world of other sports as well. And she was not shy about expanding her sporting life.
Cetacean Nation asked Emma to tell us about these other athletic pursuits growing up. She explained: “During high school I tried to play a sport in every season. I first learned about field hockey when my older sister played in high school. I tried out in grade 9 and ended up really enjoying it. I played club soccer, so playing high school soccer was a given. My high school was small so it was fun to play with my high school friends while also playing club soccer outside of school.” As we will see a little later, her soccer career had a pretty significant role in her hockey career. Emma then continued: “Badminton interested me since both of my siblings played. We used to play in gym class and I ended up being okay at it, so I went out for the team and really enjoyed the experience. Basketball was also a sport that had always interested me and it was a sport where we played frequently in gym class and I wanted to give it a shot.” A pretty good shot as it turned out, as Emma was MVP of not only the hockey team at Aldershot High School, but of the basketball squad as well.
Emma concluded her remarks on her early athletics with this surprising note: “I played volleyball and softball since there was a year when the hockey team and the soccer team got cut since there weren't enough girls. I knew I had to do something so I tried out for both teams and had a lot of fun. Let’s just say softball is not my forte (ha,ha)… But in the end I think playing all these sports showed me what it’s like playing for different types of teams. I also think by doing all these sports I remained fit and active which I think contributed to my success in hockey.” As is the case with many of the Whale players, their scholastic sports were played in addition to club and league competitions, in Emma’s instance, not only hockey but soccer as well. She told us: “Before going to Quinnipiac, I played for the Junior Toronto Aeros and in my senior year I played for Team Ontario Red in the U18 Nationals. I played with a lot of talented players on both teams and some even ended up playing in the past Olympics. I think the Toronto Aeros was a great place to play and I think it really set me up for the pace of college hockey and how hard it was going to be.”
Emma mentioned Quinnipiac University, and we asked how her decision to attend that college came about. She replied: “I decided on Quinnipiac because it was a school that had everything I was looking for. I first heard about Quinnipiac when I was in middle school. One of my coaches at the time, Kristi Alcorn had graduated from Quinnipiac and would always tell us how beautiful it was. After visiting and meeting with the coaches I knew it was the place for me. Cass Turner (now Head Coach of QU’s women’s hockey team) was one of the biggest reasons I decided to go to Quinnipiac, since she was the one who mainly recruited me. I really loved what the program was about. They have an amazing culture and I think that’s what contributes to a lot of their success.” And for four years playing defense in 144 games on the ice for the Bobcats, Emma was a big part of that success. During those years Quinnipiac made it’s first NCAA tournament appearance, and.won their first ECAC Hockey Championships. Individually, Emma was selected to the ECAC All-Tournament Team in 2016, and to their All Academic Team all four of her hockey seasons.
We mentioned earlier how soccer had played a role in the timeline of her NWHL career, and here is how Emma explained it. “ I found out about the opportunity to play soccer since my former Whale teammate, Kelly Babstock played lacrosse for her fifth year. I was in the 4+1 Business/MBA program and since my 4 years of eligibility with hockey was up, I wanted to find a reason to stay for my fifth year. Having played competitive soccer in high school I decided to try out for the team after senior hockey season. I found out I made the team at the end of the school year. Looking back, it was an experience I will never forget and I am so grateful that I was able to play.” She started 14 of Quinnipiac’s 15 games, logging 1,019 minutes, also as a defender. That decision however, precluded Emma from pursuing an NWHL career at that point, and she gave us some insight into her eventual transition back to hockey.
“I first got asked to play for the Whale in the summer. They told me that I could join after soccer season was over but I still was a bit hesitant. Playing hockey for four years then playing another sport right away, I never really had any type of break. At that time I wanted time to figure out what I really wanted to do, without having the full time commitment of a sport. Soccer ended in November, and in January Syd Rossman told me that Coach Equale wanted me to come out to a practice. I went to one practice and then realized that hockey was something that I wanted to do again. After that practice I joined the Whale and the rest is history.” Emma responded to our question about joining several other Quinnipiac alumni on the Whale: “It definitely helped having former QU players out there. Syd Rossman is one of my best friends, so being able to play in front of her again was great. Everyone welcomed me with open arms and made me feel very comfortable. The transition from college to professional was a slight adjustment. There was a slight shift in speed but other than that I think it is fairly similar. “
We continued our conversation with Emma by asking for her thoughts on expansion and the NWHL. She replied: “I think it’s amazing that the Minnesota Whitecaps are joining the NWHL. I think it is great for the growth of Women’s Hockey and being the State of Hockey they will have a lot of talented players, and it’s a chance for the league to get a lot of exposure. I think it would be great for the CWHL and the NWHL to merge one day just because there are so many great players in both leagues. Obviously this takes a lot of planning and time but I am hopeful for a future merge. I think the growth of Women’s Hockey is incredible. I think we are putting ourselves on the map and people are starting to notice.” Cetacean Nation certainly agrees with Emma, and in conclusion asked how her first professional off season was going. “My off-season is going well. This May I graduated with my MBA from Quinnipiac so now I am focusing on finding a job, officially entering the “real world”. Cetacean Nation wishes the best of luck to our #17 Emma Greco, in pursuit of her off ice career, and are excited for her continued sporting life on ice. Emma is too, and left us with this final statement: “Looking forward to next season!” Two Fins Up to that Emma !