“I was the resident poker champ until he showed up,” Leafs defenceman Brendan Bell said Monday. “He’s dethroned me.” No surprise there. Green’s poker pedigree stands out among his teammates and really amongst most other NHLers.
“I enjoy playing cards and I’ve been playing my whole life pretty much,” Green said after practice at Air Canada Centre.
He took advantage of the NHL lockout to get a little more serious about it, placing 12th in a World Series event in Las Vegas and pocketing around US$40,000.
“It was pretty cool, there were 2,700 people in the event,” said the native of Castlegar, B.C.
Now he’s a regular on the team’s road trip poker games but downplays Bell’s assertion that he’s beating up on his new teammates.
“I don’t know about that,” Green said with a laugh. “You know what? I came in and I thought it might be an easy game. But they seem to know what they’re doing, too. It’s more for fun and passing time than anything. But I definitely got the ribbing when I got here.”
Will poker become his main gig after hockey one day?
“I don’t know,” Green said. “It’s something that I really enjoy. But it’ll never go any further than a hobby I don’t think. …
“As far as pursuing it any further than that, I’ve got a long ways to go before that happens.”
He’s more focused right now on helping his new team win some games. The Leafs rank 28th out of 30 teams on the penalty kill, dropping in the rankings after top penalty killer Michael Peca went down with a serious leg injury.
Green, picked up on waivers from Anaheim on Jan. 10, is a PK specialist and is trying to help out the Leafs in that area.
“Definitely, I’ve done that for a long time now,” said Green. “It’s not a job that you get a lot of praise for but it’s a job that is very important to teams. Especially nowadays with all the special teams.”
His new coach is still getting to know him since Green has played only six games with the Leafs.
“He knows the penalty kill schemes in the league and he’s got a good veteran presence out there,” said coach Paul Maurice. “He’ll have to continue to do that. His numbers on faceoffs will have to improve, not that they’ve been bad, but they have to get better.”
Green is appreciative of his second chance with the Leafs. He was having a hard time cracking the Ducks lineup and was thrilled when the Leafs plucked him.
“It’s been great. It’s been like a breath of fresh air, really,” said Green, earning $500,000 this season. “It was frustrating the first half of the year in Anaheim. It was great being on a winning team but at the end of the day you want to play. It didn’t look like I was going to get a chance to play there.”
Green had 58 points (23-35) in 157 games with the Leafs in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons and forgot how crazy this market is.
“It’s amazing the differences when you come to Toronto. It’s good, though,” he said. “The media attention is bigger here but playing for the Leafs is special. You get treated really well. Sometimes when you go away and go back to a place you realize how good it really is.”
He’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end but retirement isn’t in the cards.
“I still love the game and love coming to the rink every day. I’ll probably be one of those guys that will try to play as long as they’ll have me,” Green said. “I’d like to play a few more years still, that’s for sure. And obviously there’s no better place to play than Toronto.”