A German-born goalie may seem like an unexpected source of US patriotism, but Thomas Greiss is paying tribute to the US military with his new helmet.
Greiss' new mask is an ode to the forces at Fort Bragg, the country's largest military base in North Carolina. It features paratroopers falling from the top his mask, while silhouettes of infantry walk below. To personalize it for Fort Bragg, he added the shields for the Special Forces and Delta Force, as well as the statue of Iron Mike, a World War II paratrooper.
Even though Greiss is from Fussen, Germany and plays for his homeland in international competition, he has made supporting the US troops a priority during his time in America.
"Everything they do for our country, you have to appreciate it," said Greiss.
Video: Thomas Greiss' New Mask
Greiss has worked with the United Heroes League - a program that provides sports equipment, tickets and clinics for children of military members - and has taught hockey clinics at Fort Bragg. He, along with Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck and former Islander turned pro scout Eric Boulton, are pro ambassadors for the program.
It was Boulton who first brought Greiss to Fort Bragg in 2016 to drop in as an instructor and to meet the soldiers stationed there, but the goalie decided to get more involved last summer, going back to teach more clinics. This summer, he plans on running his own clinic down at the North Carolina base.
"They're great kids and all of the service members that are working there," Greiss said. "It's always an honor to be able to go down there, skate with the kids and meet those guys."
Greiss said his admiration for the military stems from a respect for what they do, whether that's jumping out of airplanes like the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne, taking on dangerous missions like the Delta Force or Green Berets or putting their lives on the line for their country. To him, that respect transcends borders, plus he's played 10 of his last 11 pro seasons in the US and has made his home here.
As a team, the Islanders are treating military members to Thursday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes for Military Appreciation Night, pooling their own money for active, retired and wounded vets.
"It's great, it's just an opportunity for us to give something back. They do a lot for us," Greiss said.
Head Coach Doug Weight, whose American flag pin is a staple of his game day suit, said he's proud to see his team take the initiative to support the troops.
"The things that guys do on their own is special, given the position they're in," Weight said. "To see them taking off and going to visit people on their own and things like that, they're good kids. It's going to be a good night."
GREISS' MASK - A CLOSER LOOK: