Checking Out Greg Mauldin

28-year-old Greg Mauldin worked hard to get where he is as a professional hockey player. Despite experiencing a steady backward trend – going from playing in the NHL to the AHL to the UHL – which caused him to question his decision to pursue a career in hockey, the Holliston, MA native persevered. His fortitude paid off this season as he’s entrenched himself in the core make-up of the Colorado Avalanche, making the decision to send him back to Lake Erie unlikely.

The winger began playing hockey at 6 years old and worked his way up through the system while being considered an average player. At 21, he attended an open tryout for the Walpole Stars in Walpole, MA. The Stars are part of the Atlantic Junior Hockey League Junior A and the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League Junior B. Unfortunately, he was cut before getting a chance to suit up for them. A few months later, he attended tryouts for the Junior Bruins of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. Again, he was cut. Bill Riga, the Bruins’ assistant coach, told him that he’d never be anything more than a 5th line player. However, head coach Peter Masters saw something in Mauldin and suggested he spend the summer working out and shooting pucks in his backyard. At camp in the fall, it was clear to Masters that he did just that.

Part of the reason Mauldin improved so much was that he got a job at the local rink and spent every day on the ice. He would even sleep on egg crates in the locker room so that he could get some time in before work on days with an early shift. He was never late for his job. After working 8-10 hours, he would go back out on the ice for another hour and close up shop himself.

Because of his dedication, he made the Junior Bruins for the 1999-2000 season. Mauldin started the year on the midget team, but after three weeks, he played in a tournament for the Junior Bruins and netted the OT winner to help secure the championship title for his team. Another three weeks went by and he made it to the team full-time. By the end of the year, he was named MVP, finishing with 87 points (45g/47a).

That summer, after making a splash at the HNIB All-Scholastic tournament, UMass offered him a full scholarship on the first day he was eligible to sign. That was the only college who showed interest. He immediately proved to the university’s coaches that they chose wisely as he was dubbed Superman by his Junior Bruins’ teammates and coaches for always coming through in clutch moments, helping the team make it to the finals once again.

The thing that truly showed his character, though, was that he faced an unspeakable obstacle that season. After a long struggle with cancer, his father passed away midway through the season. In the face of tragedy, Mauldin still amassed a staggering 106 points by scoring 48 goals and tallying 58 assists.

Mauldin didn’t disappoint at the University of Massachusetts. As a freshman, he put up a solid 24 point season, yet in his sophomore year, he nearly doubled that total. His third year at UMass (2003-2004), he was sidelined with injuries for part of the season. However, he still managed to score at a point-per-game pace.

That would be his last year in school as he signed a contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets and played 6 games with them at the end of the 2003-2004 season, as well as 3 – including one playoff game – with Columbus’ minor league affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. The following year (2004-2005) he registered 27 points with the Crunch. After 56 games and 29 points in the 2005-2006 season, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild, where he played 11 games for the Houston Aeros.

Mauldin was not re-signed to the Wild during the off-season and, facing the reality that the UHL was his only option, considered letting go of his NHL dreams and joining the Army. "I spent all summer training (to play)… It was tough to swallow, to go from the top all the way to the bottom."  But rather than giving up, he chose to work even harder. "I quit thinking about my career going backwards… (What happened) humbled me…and reminded me of how hard I used to work and what got me to the NHL in the first place." So he signed on with the Bloomington Prairie Thunder of the UHL. He only played 2 games, though, before heading to Sweden.

In 2007, the forward attended the St. Louis Blues prospect development camp and then signed with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators, a minor league affiliate of the Ottawa Senators. He played two seasons in Binghamton, scoring 33 and 27 points respectively, and had signed a one-year contract with Ottawa for the second season.

Once again a free agent in the summer of 2009, Mauldin was offered another one-year contract, this time with the New York Islanders. He spent all but one game that season with their minor league team, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, where he netted 25 goals and helped out on 29 more. That off-season, he was contacted by the Colorado Avalanche and, after talking with them, decided he liked what the Avs had to offer. Thus, he signed yet another one-year contract for the 2010-2011 season.

Despite making a strong showing in training camp, the winger was assigned to the Lake Erie Monsters at the start of the season. Still, his skill and work ethic did not go unnoticed; he was given the captaincy for the team after David Liffiton and David Van der Gulik were recalled by Colorado. Certainly his point production of 5 goals and 7 assists in 14 games was a strong example for his teammates.

Because of injuries on the Avalanche, Mauldin got another chance at the NHL. In his very first game, he made it count by scoring a short-handed goal off a nice feed from David Jones.  "I couldn’t have asked for a better goal to suit the kind of style I play," said Mauldin. "To beat the defenseman in a foot race, to beat the goalie high…the emotions of it were unbelievable."

Since then, the hard-working forward has hit the back of the net 5 more times, recorded 5 assists and is a +10. Coach Sacco has relied on him in key moments, including the penalty kill and waning seconds of games. Of Mauldin, Sacco said, "When you think of Mauldy, you think of perseverance. He stuck it out through some tough times, and when you do that, sometimes things happen for the right reasons.

"He’s one of those guys you can just rely on. He’s dependable. I know what I’m going to get from him night in and night out." His teammates are impressed with him, too. "He’s relentless on the puck," said Daniel Winnik, "never gives up, and is just a great team player."

Mauldin’s hard work and resolve have given him the opportunity of which he’s always dreamed. He’s put in effort that many never would and overcome obstacles that would cause most people to quit. As expected, he’s not taking it for granted. "If I don’t play well tomorrow, they would have no problem sending me down and calling someone else up. It’s a league of ‘what have you done for me lately?’ I figure if I’m playing well and those guys (out for injuries) do come back, maybe they’ll still keep me."

He’s not giving them much of a choice; with his play, work ethic and attitude, Greg Mauldin is exactly the kind of player any NHL team would love to have.

References:

http://lakeeriemonsters.com/team/stats/

http://avalanche.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=546544

http://www.bostonjuniorbruins.com/archive04.html

http://www.umassathletics.com/sports/m-hockey/mtt/mauldin_greg00.html

http://www.masslive.com/sports/index.ssf/2010/12/former_minuteman_greg_mauldin.html

http://www.cleveland.com/monsters/index.ssf/2010/10/off_the_ice_with_greg_mauldin.html

http://www.examiner.com/colorado-avalanche-in-denver/greg-mauldin-enjoying-recent-success-at-the-nhl-level

http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/sports/local_sports/x2105639541/The-Beat-Mauldin-making-a-mark-in-the-NHL

Author's Note: Apologies for any mistakes. It was a bit difficult to see the computer monitor through the tears. =)

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