As the old adage goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Sometimes that journey is on a flat surface. For others, such as Weber State University hockey player Braxton Green, that journey was a mountain to climb.
Green, a public relations and advertising major, wasn’t a hockey player in his early childhood. He originally played baseball in Colorado before he was introduced to hockey at a later age.
“My dad remarried, and my stepbrother was a roller hockey player,” Green said. “I kind of got into playing roller hockey with him, and he got me into ice hockey. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have picked up a hockey stick.”
Green’s first hockey memory is of when he went to visit family in Wyoming as a child over the winter. His father took him to a nearby frozen pond, and he got his first pair of ice skates. Green played for hours on that pond. Other travels brought him to Layton, Utah, where his father grew up.
“When I was 21 and looking to go to school, I was looking to go to schools out East and the Midwest, but they were so expensive,” Green recalled. “I actually wasn’t going to go to school, but we came out here for a wedding and I liked the area and thought of applying.”
“Weber was struggling,” said WSU sophomore and Ogden native Dax Hobbs. “(Braxton and I) talked quite a bit, and he tried to get me to come to Weber. He talked up the program and how it would turn around and how he saw the worst years that Weber had ever seen. He was basically the main recruiter out of Utah to get people to come to Weber.”
Despite the struggles, Green maintained his positive attitude throughout the ordeal.
“I’ve loved every minute of it,” Green said. “We weren’t doing too well, but it was still fun going to the rink and hanging out with the guys. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.”
Fortunes changed for the Wildcats when a new head coach, Joe Pfleegor, came in. With Pfleegor came a new recruiting class and new life to the program. However, Green was a constant. Pfleegor said Green’s first three years benefited the team because of the leadership and experience it brought him.
Green wasn’t completely convinced at first that the coaching change would bring a different result, but a trip to face his hometown’s Colorado State University in a doubleheader changed his views.
“(CSU was) always a team that used to spank us,” Green said. “We ended up beating them and tying them at their rink. That was right at the beginning of the season.”
That two-game stretch brought a lot of offers from teams who wanted to play the Wildcats. They had earned a respect that had been lost over the years. The Wildcats made a push and made it to the national tournament, a feat that had eluded Green his entire hockey career.
“It was almost hard to believe,” Green said. “It didn’t settle in until we got to the tournament. Everyone told me that when I got there, it would be a big deal. It was everything everyone told me it would be and more. It was definitely one of the best moments of my hockey career, to make it to the national tournament and do as well as we did.”
This season, the team reached even greater heights. It ended the season ranked No. 1 in the Western Region after a slow start to the season and won the Mountain West Conference Championship. While the Wildcats had an early exit in the national tournament, Green said the memory of winning a championship in his final season is something he won’t forget.
“We got on a hot streak, and it was awesome winning the first Mountain West Championship,” Green said. “That is something no one can ever take away from us. It was one of the goals that we achieved. It is one of those memories I won’t ever forget either — especially it being in our home rink.”
With his WSU career coming to an end, Green has left his mark on the team.
“The bottom line is this: If you didn’t have Braxton those first three years, I don’t think Weber would have had a team,” Pfleegor said. “I think Braxton, with his motivation, his positive attitude and his leadership qualities, he kept the program together in such a way, and was patient enough to get for a coach to come in and piece it together.”
Pfleegor said he is confident teammates and fans won’t soon forget Green.
“He definitely left his legacy here,” Pfleegor said. “To have a captain for five years, you don’t have that. Braxton was definitely the right man for the job. With his motivation and positive attitude, he kept the team together, in bad times and good times. That’s what a leader is about, to stay positive, and that is what he did and that’s what he brought to Weber.”
After graduation, Green plans to travel overseas to continue his hockey career and make money playing the game he loves.