As many of you know, I do video breakdowns on this site. I’m not always active due to commitments and obligations, and the time required to do the breakdowns. However, this website would not be possible without the hockey knowledge required to break down the video. While a lot of that has come from watching a significant amount of hockey over the years, it really took off because of one person.
In December, I wrote about my dream of becoming a GM in the NHL. In that story, I spoke briefly of the opportunity given to me by the Sudbury Wolves. My time officially came to an end in Sudbury after this season, 2 years that I couldn’t be more thankful for. I am able to provide breakdowns and understand hockey at a completely different level because of David Matsos, former Wolves coach.
In the two years I spent with the team, particularly the year where I was around the team on a daily basis, I cannot say enough about what Matsos and former GM Barclay Branch, did for me. It started with a leap of faith in September 2015, where Matsos was on board to work with me as long as I committed to working with him. Both men took EVERY opportunity to check in with me, ensure I felt comfortable and gave me every opportunity to learn.
Every game I’d clip the video and there were some hiccups at first. I was learning a new program, I wasn’t sure what the coaches were looking for. Matsos (Matty) was unbelievably patient with me, detailing what he was looking for. When I had questions about anything, he never hesitated to answer them. I felt more included and confident as I spent more time with the coaching staff and the program.
Most importantly, I learned two life lessons from Matty, that I have taken with me past my time with the Wolves. The first, preparation is paramount. Pre-game, post-game, and for endless hours on the bus, I would watch as he looked at video of the Wolves or other teams we were preparing for. He spent hours looking at player clips, recognizing patterns and tendencies (something I learned to do). There was not a SINGLE game where I felt like he didn’t know every detail. He would ask me to pull up video of a play at a certain point in the period, I marvelled at how he recognized and remembered patterns and plays. I realized it was because he showed up at the rink in the early hours every morning to prepare himself for whatever was next. I have taken that same approach forward, it is better to be over prepared and do too much prep, than to be underprepared and get embarrassed.
The second lesson I learned was that it isn’t always about hockey, it is good to care. The reason so many players love playing for Matty is because they know he’s in their corner. He understands that he’s got many personalties and life situations in his room, and that each of them needs a different approach. Its about communication. Rarely, if ever, did I hear him yelling in the room. We had some blow out losses and tough stretches, games where we didn’t show up. I can’t remember an instance where he was demeaning towards the players. Junior is about developing hockey players, but also, people. He really understands that, and it shows in his relationships with his players. For me, he genuinely took the time to get to know me, my past, my dreams, my goals, all of it. Towards the end of my first season and the beginning of this season, I had some family issues. To this day, they are difficult to discuss. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive response from him, the rest of the coaches or Barclay. Every opportunity he had, he asked about how I was handling things, if I needed anything, and how he could help. This type of support allowed me to go to the rink and feel comfortable. For the hours I was around the team, I was at peace. Looking back on it, this was invaluable to my healing. From him, I learned the importance of communication, compassion and understanding how to deal with the multiple personalties and adversities in a given situation. In hockey or otherwise, this is a lesson that I have taken to heart and its had a profound impact on how I deal with everyday life.
I’m going to miss working with Matty. He is one of the toughest guys I know. I’ve seen him deal with adversity in a calm, confident manner and it rubbed off on his staff and his players. Not only did I learn an incredible amount of hockey knowledge from him, but I learned some really important life lessons, too. He’s a great coach because he develops people as much as he develops hockey players.
I will never forget the chance Matty gave me and the incredible learning experience that followed. I owe an incredible chunk of my “hockey education” to him; and for that, I will be forever grateful. I would jump at the opportunity to work for him again, and I hope that our paths cross one day. Wherever he ends up, he will do great things. Success follows great people. David Matsos is an incredible coach, and an even better mentor. It is impossible to thank him enough for what he’s done for me.