Canton woman: 'Surreal' experience watching her son compete as first black Team USA hockey player
Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 5:38 pm

Jordan Greenway and his sister Maria in Boston University’s hockey arena before he left for Korea and the Winter Olympics.

Growing up in Canton, Jordan Greenway was often the only African-American in his class, at community events, or on the ice rink. This week, Greenway is breaking an even bigger barrier while making history: he’s the first-ever African-American player on the US Olympic hockey team.

“I’m happy I’m the first. I hope I’m the first of many,” Greenway told NBC Olympics last month. “Hopefully I inspire other kids to want to do the same thing, try something different.”

Shannon Sullivan, Greenway’s mom, couldn’t be prouder. “It’s a surreal time for me, just for everything that’s happening for him,” she said. “When we realized he was going to break this barrier, we were like, ‘holy cow.’ It’s going to be his legacy, it’s going to follow him forever.”

Sullivan is the director of patient financial services, overseeing patient billing for St. Lawrence Health System and Canton-Potsdam Hospital. As a single mother and an athlete herself, she made sure that her boys were always enrolled in sports.

Greenway was on skates by three and quickly excelled. His uncles were big hockey players, and he loved playing pond hockey or heading to the rink with them.

Greenway left the North Country at age 13 to attend Shattuck St.-Mary’s School’s prestigious hockey program in Minnesota, and was recruited to play for Boston University.

His path to the Olympics wasn’t certain until last fall, when the NHL announced that it wouldn’t allow its players to participate in the Winter Games. USA Hockey turned to college and amateur teams to field its Olympic roster. As a power forward boasting size, strength, speed, experience and success, Greenway was a natural choice.

The USA men’s hockey team will face off against Slovenia, Slovakia and Russia this week. The games will air live early in the morning, and Sullivan plans to watch them on TV with her eight-year-old daughter, Maria, before they head off to school and work.

“I’ve gotten tons of text messages from people at work saying that they saw our family on CNN,” Sullivan said. “My daughter’s school did a rally, and businesses that know our family have sent cards. It’s been a great show of support.”