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Matvichuk Looking to Get Back Into Game

Monday, 10.31.2011 / 8:52 PM / News
By Steve Hunt
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Matvichuk Looking to Get Back Into Game

   
During his 12 seasons with the Stars, Richard Matvichuk became a fan favorite with the Dallas faithful for several reasons. One, he was a hard-nosed, gritty defenseman who was part of a Stars rearguard that was among the best in the National Hockey League.


Two, besides delivering strong play in the back end he also contributed his share of points for some Dallas teams that didn’t really need any extra offense. On the ice, “Matty” was a bulldog and as tough as they come but off the pond, he was affable, approachable and yet another personality who embodied what those Stars teams were all about under Ken Hitchcock. So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he was one of many players fans took a liking to.

In 2004, he made his way to New Jersey, following a similar path of ex-Dallas teammates Jamie Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk. He skated in 62 games for the Devils in 2005-06 but because of a back injury, only made the ice for one contest the following year. He gave it one last shot in Columbus in 2006 since Hitchcock was the Blue Jackets’ new head coach but while his will was strong, his back was not. So, he hung up his skates for good.

“It was a tough go,” Matvichuk recalled. “I went in with [Ken] Hitchcock with open arms. It just didn’t work out. I thought I had a good chance but it just didn’t work out. It was one of those things at that point in my career and after back surgery, I knew I had to hang ‘em up.”

Since retiring, he’s remained in the Dallas area, coaching his kids in baseball and hockey while also enjoying quality time with his family. They currently reside in Southlake.

But like many former players, he’s now itching to re-immerse himself in the game, a way to give back considering hockey has given him so much over the years.

 “Yeah, I’m trying to get my name out there now and see what happens. I want to get back into the game and give the opportunity to some of these kids that all the coaches gave to me when I was playing,” Matvichuk said. “I’m only 38 now and they kind of say the magic number [to get back into the game] is 40. I’ll throw my name out a couple times and see what happens.”

Some former players might prefer scouting over coaching or vice versa, but for this former Dallas standout, it really doesn’t matter what capacity he’s in just as long as he is involved with hockey once again.

“No, it really wouldn’t matter. As long as I could get back into the organization, enjoy it and have fun. If it’s scouting or it’s coaching, whatever comes along [I’d be interested],” Matvichuk said.

And since he remains in the area and also considering he had his most productive seasons in the NHL with the Stars, were the Dallas organization to offer him a way to get back in, he would jump at said chance in very short order.

“Absolutely, 100 percent, this organization has been great to me. I still feel that I’m a part of the Dallas Stars and always will be,” Matvichuk said. “So, hopefully if there’s an opportunity my name will come up.”

Should he land a coaching or scouting position, he knows he’d join several other members of that Stars 1999 Stanley Cup-winning team who are currently working in similar capacities around the league, guys like Derian Hatcher (Flyers) and Pat Verbeek (Lightning).

“Hatcher’s in Philly and there are a bunch of guys out there. We’re all getting to that age now as players where we will start to get the coaching positions and the scouting positions to come along,” Matvichuk said. “When we were here in ’99, there were 11 or 12 of us who played together as players. I think four or five of the guys are getting back into it. It’s good to see.”

Originally, he was the eighth overall pick in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, taken by the Minnesota North Stars. Like several other members of that ’99 Cup team, he remembers, quite vividly being part of that inaugural Dallas Stars team in 1993. He looks at how much the game has grown in the Metroplex since and takes great pride in that.

“It’s funny. When at his press conference, Mike [Modano] talked about when he first came down here in ’93, every time the whistle blew, the fans cheered,” Matvichuk recalled. “They didn’t know what they were cheering for but it was a great atmosphere. We knew that for us to compete in Dallas with the fans and with the Cowboys that we had to win. Luckily we did that.”

And speaking of Modano, his longtime teammate here in Big D, he was somewhat sad to see Mo call it quits but also considers himself quite fortunate to have skated alongside a guy most consider the best American-born player ever to play in the NHL.

For that fact alone, this former Star feels that Mo’s spot on hockey’s version of Mount Rushmore is all but assured.

“It’s unbelievable. For me, you’ve got to put Mike in the upper echelon with the Leimieuxs and Gretzkys knowing that he is the best American player to ever play,” Matvichuk said. “For him to have the career that he did and for him to do what he did in Dallas is just awesome to see.”

As a member of that magical ’99 team that brought Lord Stanley’s Bowl to DFW, he will be forever linked with that group. That’s just fine with him because that experience is one that will stick with him for the rest of his life.

“It was fun. I remember the start of training camp, we went in knowing that anything less than the Stanley Cup would be a big failure for us. We went into every game thinking that we weren’t going to lose,” Matvichuk said. “We went through stretches of 10-game and 15-game winning streaks where if we lost a game, it was upsetting. I think we lost like 19 games that year and went into the playoffs pretty good. We dealt with a little adversity like when Mike [Modano] breaks his wrist and when Benoit Hogue and Brett Hull were out with knee injuries. But we all found a way just to dig in there and keep it going.”

Since he’s remained in the area, he has continued to keep close tabs on how his former club has been faring in the NHL. He likes the recent hiring of Glen Gulutzan as the Stars’ new head coach as well as several personnel changes and admits this year’s group figures to be a fun product to see on the pond.

“I played with Gully, the head coach in Saskatoon and I love his philosophy. I’ve talked to him a little bit,” Matvichuk said. “They’ve got a good team. They’re going to score some goals. The goaltending’s there. I think with the addition of Sheldon Souray, his leadership and experience and with Stephane Robidas back there, they’ll be OK.”




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