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Ex-Star Adams Was True Testament to Determination

by Steve Hunt / Dallas Stars

Greg Adams’ route to a 17-year NHL career was definitely an unconventional one. After two years at the University of Northern Arizona, he signed with the Devils as an undrafted free agent in 1984, making his debut later that year. He remained there until 1987, when he was traded to Vancouver.

Adams spent eight seasons as a Canuck and played a prominent role in Vancouver’s 1994 Western Conference championship team, which until this year, had been the only Canuck squad to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals. His next stop was Dallas and Greg spent four seasons with the Stars before heading to Phoenix for two years. Florida proved to be his final stop in the league as he called it quits after spending the 2000-01 campaign with the Panthers.

Since hanging up his skates, he’s been working in real estate in the Phoenix area but admits he’s always looking for an opportunity that would allow him to work in hockey.

But the most impressive thing about him might be that his road started in of all places, Flagstaff, Arizona. That town in the northern half of the Grand Canyon State is best known as home to the Arizona Snowbowl, a popular Arizona ski resort as well as the home of Northern Arizona or NAU.

He spent two seasons on the pond for the Fighting Lumberjacks, racking up 108 points in 55 games. In 1983-84, Greg had 73 points in 26 games, a total including 44 goals. While he never thought he’d end up skating in Flagstaff, those are still years he looks back on with great pride.

“Well, it was a situation where I knew I wanted to go to University. I guess I was a little of a late developer as a hockey player, so I didn’t get any of the scholarship offers from the big schools, especially since I was out west from Minnesota, Michigan or any of those big schools that everyone else was getting them from. At the time, Northern Arizona offered me a scholarship,” Adams recalled. “I had already decided I wanted to go to University and if that was the end of my hockey career, fine. I got schooling paid out of it but that was the route I knew I was taking.”

At least one NHL club took notice of what he had been doing in the collegiate ranks and in 1984 the Devils signed him to a free agent contract despite him being undrafted. It was the start of a long and productive run in the league that wouldn’t end for 17 seasons.

“I was a late developer as a hockey player, so the fact I went to University gave me a little bit more time to develop. The other side of that coin was that I was not really scouted very well in my minor career. Playing junior hockey, I didn’t get scouted because I did develop late as a player,” Adams said. “There’s different ways to get to the NHL. Mine was just one of many different ways I guess.”

He spent three seasons in the Garden State and in 1985-86 was a solid producer in 78 games (35-42-77). However, just before the 1987/88 season, he was traded to Vancouver, a homecoming of sorts since he had been born in Nelson, British Columbia.

In his first season as a Canuck, Adams again eclipsed the 70-point barrier with 76 points (36-40-76) in 80 games for the 87-88 Canucks. But his most memorable moment in Vancouver came in 1994 when he netted an overtime game-winner to send his club through to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history.

It’s a tally that many still talk about in his native British Columbia.

“When I’m in Vancouver, [people ask me about it] a lot. When I’m anywhere else, [they don’t ask] not at all. People in Vancouver I think remember that goal a lot and in British Columbia. With the success the Canucks had this year I think I got more press time than when I was actually playing. It was kind of fun, talking on the radio and doing interviews about that run we had in ’94 and comparing it to the team this year,” Adams said.

And since he was part of the first Canucks team to play for Lord Stanley’s bowl, he couldn’t help but get caught up in the moment as Vancouver returned to the finals earlier this year.

“It was nice to see them have such a great year, a little bit of a disappointment, them not finishing it off and not being able to win it. But it was fun pulling for them and kind of reliving our run as well through them,” he said.

He was traded to Dallas during the 94/95 season and played the final 12 games of that season with the Stars. He would spend the next three seasons in Big D and like many who played here it was a part of his career that he thoroughly enjoyed.

“I enjoyed playing in Dallas. My first year there, it wasn’t that great but we really turned the corner quick and had some good years there. Anytime you’re winning it’s fun to play hockey and Dallas is just a great city. I really enjoyed my time there,” he said.

But after almost four seasons in DFW, he then made his way to Phoenix in another homecoming and spent two years there. Joining the Coyotes allowed him to play professional hockey just two hours south of where his frozen odyssey began in Flagstaff some 17 years earlier at NAU.

“That was fun. It was a treat to go back there. I’d always felt comfortable in Phoenix and to go back there and play hockey again was a lot of fun,” Adams said. “I had a lot of guys that I played college with that were living in Phoenix, so I did have some friends there right away. It was a fun place to play and I enjoyed it so much that’s basically where I’m living now.”

Once his time in the Valley of the Sun was over, he played one last year with Florida before calling it quits in 2001. While much of his career was marred by injuries, he still had 743 points in 1,056 games while skating for five different teams. All in all, it was a career he remains incredibly proud of.

“Well, if I could sum it all up, I accomplished a lot more than I thought I was going to. I don’t think anyone including myself ever thought that I was going to get to the NHL and then to actually play 17 years was a thrill for me. But I think it was also a surprise,” Adams said. “I remember starting and thinking if I could get seven years in this, I think I’d be pretty happy. To have it turn into a 17-year career, it was kind of a thrill for me to play that long in the NHL.”

He took his game to Germany for the 2001-02 season, registering 42 points in 50 games for the Frankfurt Lions, officially bringing his playing career to a close.

Since then, he has worked in real estate in Arizona and also worked as an NHL scout for one year. While he’s happy with his current gig in the Scottsdale area, he admits were the right opportunity to return to the game to present itself, he’d jump at the chance to again work in hockey.

“I would definitely love to get back in the game if the right situation came up for me,” Adams said. “I’d definitely love to get back in the game at some point. Nothing has really come up. I did scout for a year but I haven’t really had much of an opportunity to get back into it other than that.”

But it doesn’t matter whether it was a front-office position like a scout or if he got into coaching, as long as he gets a chance, he knows he can show what he can do in that arena.

“Any form, anyway to get back in the game [would be good]. I had that one year of scouting and really enjoyed it. Probably the best thing I enjoyed about it was every arena you went to, there were about five guys in the press box that you knew from other teams that you played on.  It’s a close group of guys. That was probably the best part of the whole thing,” Adams said.

Why wouldn’t he make a great scout or front office employee? After all, Greg Adams is a guy who is a testament to where determination and hard work can lead a young player. He went from playing college hockey at Northern Arizona and being undrafted into a 17-year playing career with five different teams. How’s that for a self-made man?

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