For 18-year-old Brandon Wheat Kings forward Ridly Greig, the past two months have been nothing short of a whirlwind. From being drafted in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, to earning a place in the 2021 Canadian World Junior Team selection camp, the fall season began quite well for Lethbridge, AB. product.
The dream of suiting up for Team Canada in the annual IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship began long ago for Greig. Working his way through the local U-15/18 AAA hockey program with his hometown’s Golden Hawks and Hurricanes, the 5-foot-11, 165-pound winger earned a permanent roster spot on the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2018-19. Following a strong rookie season, Greig went on to set career highs in goals (26), assists (34) and points (60) in 2019-20.
His dream of Canadian glory was realized as Hockey Canada announced its attendees for its selection camp running from mid-November through to the tournament held in Edmonton, AB. from December 25 to January 5. But thanks to the seriousness of the current COVID-19 pandemic, that dream never quite became a reality for the young Team Canada hopeful… at least not this year.
“I wanted to head into the selection camp healthy and at my best, but of course it didn’t really turn out as I had wanted,” Greig told Game On. “But at this point, I am just really looking forward to next year and being motivated now from being released. I am still just 18 and am happy that I get a second chance at it. I can’t wait to come back into camp next year with all this behind me and really show everyone what I’m all about.”
Greig, who had been skating with a small group of players in Brandon during the early fall months, was exposed to another player with COVID-19 and ended up testing positive for the virus on November 8. He immediately went into 14-day quarantine and entered the Red Deer, AB. Hockey Canada ‘bubble’ on November 22.
“I practiced the first day I got there and then again on the 23rd, but unfortunately we got shut down and I had to go into another 14-day quarantine in the hotel alone,” Greig said. “Quarantine ended on Tuesday and at that point there was new protocol announced. So, for me, I was really badly out of shape and so affected from COVID in my lungs that the doctors said it would be best to just go home and start recovering for the upcoming WHL season.”
Sent home for catching a cold, the Wheat Kings’ young athlete said that the virus really didn’t affect him much upon first exposure, however, his on-ice performance certainly was lacking following his time away from the game.
“To be honest, I think I’m still recovering now,” he said matter-of-factly. “When I had it, I didn’t really have any symptoms; I wasn’t coughing and I didn’t have a sore throat or anything like that. But moreso, it kind of came after, like a the post-COVID effect. My lungs were really weak. Never in my life have I felt like that, bent over breathing after every rep in practice. But I’m just going to try to slowly work my way back into shape, get back on the ice and get my skill and skating back to prepare for the season.”
Although the Red Deer experience wasn’t much more than a couple skates followed by a couple weeks of hotel room quarantine, Greig did pluck a number of positives out of the experience – and not just the positive COVID-19 test, that is.
“Obviously, being sent home was disappointing, but it was something out of my control and there was nothing that I could really do about it,” he reflected. “I know that I did make some good friends and had the opportunity to get in some Zoom workouts and team strategy meetings; it was nice to meet everybody and build some friendships. I did a lot of Facetime and played a bunch of video games in the room. I had a stationary bike there for me to help me stay active and just try not to go insane. I got the new Call of Duty Cold War game, so I put on a few hours there. I played with some buddies back home and some of the guys in camp, so that was a big part of my days.”
The disappointing end to the selection camp and calendar year tops off what had been – until that point – a very successful 12 months for Greig. Finishing just two points behind team points leader Luka Burzan despite playing seven fewer games, Greig shone for the Wheaties, so much so that he heard his name called 28th overall by the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the virtual 2020 NHL draft back in early-October.
From the uncertainty of the 2020 WHL postseason, to the extended break, to the NHL Draft, to the COVID-19 news and the Hockey Canada experience, Greig has been through a lot in 2020… but quite frankly, who hasn’t? He will most definitely welcome the new year with open arms, whenever it does make its way around.
“I just really hope our season starts and we get to play hockey this year,” Greig laughed. “Last year was really fun and another amazing experience with some great teammates and coaches in Brandon. I’m not going to lie, I was pretty sad at the start of the shutdown, with our season on the line like that. But then obviously the draft came along and it was an amazing moment for my family and I. But then came the COVID news and I was pretty bummed out again, but then again it was out of my control. So I’m just going to put it behind me and just start working out and training more to get prepared for the season. It’s been an interesting year.”