By Sue Tiffin
Published Nov. 9 2017
The Duchenes are happy that Matt’s coming home.
The Haliburton-born NHL player left the ice mid-game as a Colorado Avalanche centre on Nov. 5 grabbed a rolling suitcase and left the arena for Ottawa when a much-anticipated trade was finalized.
“We are extremely excited for obvious reasons…close to home Christmas at home short drive to games and best of all a ‘class’ organization a great city and ‘Canadian proud’” wrote Vince Matt’s dad in an email to the paper.
“We are all looking forward to a fresh start and couldn’t be more thrilled that it is with the Sens” wrote his mom Chris to the paper. “We always wanted him to play in Canada this is just unbelievable and we couldn’t be happier and more proud of how he has handled himself over the last few months.”
Chris who grew up in nearby Cornwall where Matt’s grandparents live and his uncle Newell Brown played for the Royals said the family was happy that Matt and his wife Ashley and their dog Paisley were going to be closer to Haliburton. She also looked back fondly on the experiences Matt had had since joining the Avalanche in 2009.
“We loved going to Colorado and had some amazing family time there that we will never forget” said Chris Duchene. “Watching Matt play hockey on his favourite childhood team was a highlight for Jess [Matt’s sister] Vince and I and we are grateful to the organization for giving him such an awesome experience.”
Leaving the Avalanche was not an easy decision for Matt who requested the trade last year from general manager Joe Sakic and said it was the hardest thing he’s had to do.
“You know there’s no such thing as a perfect human being but for me Joe Sakic is pretty darn close” he said in a press conference. “He’s a guy I looked up to my whole life. We had a great relationship the whole time we both had a tear in our eye yesterday. Favourite team as a kid and an honour to play there.”
Matt told media he had been expecting the trade which took place 1:59 minutes into a game against the New York Islanders.
“Last night was crazy” he said laughing. “I had an idea before the game that it might happen and I was kind of laughing with my agent and my parents and my wife. I was saying that I thought it was going to happen during the first period. Funny enough two shifts in I actually saw our trainer get the call down and I knew right away that that’s what it was. The coaches looked at me and kind of gave me the head nod so that was very strange. I tried to sneak off the ice but there was a camera right there so it kind of caught the whole thing.”
From the arena in Brooklyn he went right into practice the next morning with the Senators in Ottawa preparing for a trip to Sweden that will see him play with his new team against his former team this week.
“This is a pretty big whirlwind so I’m just trying to get my feet under me right now but the nice part is when you go out on the ice it’s just hockey” Matt told media after the practice. “That’s what you get used to doing.”
Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher who has coached Matt before on Team Canada said the Senators were getting a top-end centre.
“I’ve watched him a lot I think everybody’s watched him a lot” he said in a press conference on Monday. “He’s won pretty much every gold medal possible so he’s used to playing with top players and top high-end pressure situations. I know he’s able to handle a lot of pressure.”
Boucher said Matt has a lot of skill that he’s extremely quick can handle the puck extremely well and is “great at going inside those dots.” He added that he didn’t think Matt needed to be the team’s saviour – that the team didn’t need to be saved – but that he fit well with the identity of the team.
“I think everything about him really fits what we’re trying to do.”
Boucher also noted that Matt couldn’t be expected to come in and adjust immediately but said “he’s very quick and very smart.”
“He’s definitely a guy that can adjust it’s going to take awhile but he’s probably going to be quicker at it than some guys would have been.”
Matt told reporters he was used to being thrust into new situations including international opportunities throughout his career and that the trade felt similar to those experiences but in the flurry he was relieved to have the trade behind him and keen to play for the Senators even if as he noted he might “look a little bit weird at first in the different colours.”
“I think the guys seem like they have a lot of fun. Even practice it’s business but it’s loose in a good way. That’s the biggest thing is you gotta enjoy what you’re doing. I know I love to do this. It seems like a lot of the other guys share that here. I’m looking forward to spending that kind of time with them and be in this environment.”
Matt said he had a goal of one play-off run toward the Stanley Cup.
“Beyond excited” he said in response to reporters. “Three hours from home back in my home province with a team I’ve been keeping my eye on for a long time. Just to see the way these guys play the skill level it’s a great market I’m very excited and can’t wait to get started.”