Mauldin, NTDP’s first black coach, had a role model in his hometown
New NTDP assistant coach Greg Mauldin: “You need somebody to look up to or someone to follow.”
Last month, when Greg Mauldin became the first black coach in the 24-year history of the National Team Development Program, he was following in the footsteps of an idol.
Mauldin, 38, an assistant coach with the Under-18 team, found his role model right in his hometown of Holliston, MA – Mike Grier. Although born in Detroit, Grier grew up in Holliston, played in the NHL and then became a coach.
"I got to watch him firsthand in my hometown," Mauldin said. "For me, it was great to have someone who looks like me, someone to follow the path and to really motivate me that, 'If you can do it, I can do it, too.’ "
Grier was a high school phenom and a star at Boston University. He played in more than 1,000 NHL games and then became an assistant coach in the league.
Mauldin, 38, came to the NTDP in Plymouth after a 16-year playing career that included stops in the American Hockey League, NHL, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia and Norway.
Now, with the NTDP, he could very well become a role model for other young players.
"I never really sought … to be that person, but it's an honor," Mauldin told NHL.com’s “The Color of Hockey” blog. "For everyone or anybody, you need somebody to look up to or someone to follow. I guess I can be that person for somebody out there. It's pretty cool to have that honor, and hope I can make the most of it."
Grier – who worked as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils from 2018-20 (he is stepping away this season to spend time with his family during the pandemic) – called Mauldin's hiring "an important step."
"Good for him for getting his foot in the door," Grier said. "It's definitely good to have a person of color in such a high-profile job that I'm sure a lot of young coaches would love to have."
Mauldin was drafted in 2002 out of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the seventh round (199th overall) by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The forward played 36 NHL games with Columbus, the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche from 2003-04 to 2010-11, totaling five goals and five assists.
Dan Muse, coach of the USNTDP Under-18 team, said Mauldin's wealth of experience in North American and international hockey made him an attractive candidate for the job.
"I feel like it was a home run there, Greg being able to come in as an assistant coach," Muse said. "The obvious thing is his experience with the game; he's had such a long playing career. When you got beyond that experience, you had the feeling with Greg, based on his personality, what he values combined with the kind of person that he is and the character that he has, that it would translate to him being a great mentor for the players in this program, a great teacher and a great coach."
Mauldin said he landed the job "kind of by accident."
He intended to return to Norway to play another season when Lawrence Feloney, a friend and video coach for the Nashville Predators, told him about the NTDP opening and about Muse, who was hired in August from the Predators' coaching staff to lead the Under-18 team.
"He's, like, 'I'll put you guys in contact.' I didn't think anything of it," Mauldin said of his chat with Feloney. "That was on a Thursday. Dan and I talked for about an hour that Thursday."
That conversation, in early October, led to a Zoom interview with Muse, and other USNTDP coaches the following Saturday.
"I thought that went really well, and I really felt that I wanted the job," Mauldin said. "It's USA Hockey, and I had never been part of USA Hockey before. I knew at some point I'd have to retire, and I thought this would be a pretty good way to start my coaching career.
“The Under-18 national development team is a pretty good gig. To work with some of the best 17-year-olds in the country, that's hard to pass up."
He is getting acclimated at USA Hockey Arena.
"Right now, it's been a lot of video work, meeting with players, critiquing some stuff," he said. "Video work is a lot tougher than I thought it would be, figuring out the programming. But it's coming along."