Hanging up the blades is never easy.
Every player should be granted the luxury of leaving the game they love on their own terms. It’s a rite of passage that every athlete deserves.
Unfortunately, Matt Eagles was denied that rite.
The Fredericton, New Brunswick product was forced to leave the game in 2012-2013, while playing for his hometown St. Thomas Tommie’s.
Eagles, a four-year veteran of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League was playing AUS Hockey when he sustained a series of concussions over a three-month period.
“Walking away from hockey was a tough decision, but it was the right thing to do,” confessed Eagles.
The transition out of the game for anyone that has been robbed of a proper ending to their career is extremely difficult and in many ways unjust.
“Anytime a parent sees their child get hurt it is difficult,” said Matt’s father fifteen-year veteran of NHL Mike Eagles.
“It was a hard thing to go through for Anne-Marie and I. We always had his health at the forefront of our minds. The hockey wasn’t a priority for us like it was for him.”
The decision to leave that part of his life behind propelled Eagles on his current career path.
“Ultimately, my experience with brain injury had a huge impact on my initial interest in neuroscience,” explained Eagles.
“Matt made an educated decision regarding his future after seeing Dr. Joanne Savoie. We supported him 100% and are now super proud of what he is doing with his life,” Eagles father said.
“He loves what he does and is motivated to help people to the best of his ability within his profession.”
Eagles has very fond memories of his time in the game, especially the time spent in the Hub City.
In 248 career games with the Wildcats, Eagles amassed 176 points, won a President Cup and appeared in the Memorial Cup in 2006 losing in the final to Patrick Roy’s Quebec Remparts.
“I had a great experience in the Quebec league. The 2006 team was incredible.”
“We had so many talented players, but it was the leadership on that team that left a lasting impression.”
“Our Memorial Cup experience was the highlight of my hockey career. Having the entire city behind us was very special, something that I will never forget.”
Eagles time in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League drastically impacted his life both as a player and person. “You start out as a teenager and leave as a young man, that maturity is important as you head to school.”
The crafty forward always dreamed of having a pro career, but realized that just wasn’t in the cards.
The former Wildcat took full advantage of the QMJHL’s scholarship program, which proved to be invaluable for the future medical student.
“The scholarship program was very helpful in funding my education.Stress about money can make it tougher to focus on school,” admitted Eagles.
Eagles is currently in his third year of Neurosurgical Residency Program at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Calgary, after spending four years studying Medicine at Memorial University.
Dr. Eagles doesn’t shy away from offering advice for other major junior players considering their options in the game and life after the game.
“You have to be honest with yourself, if you think that you have what it takes to make hockey a career, then go for it.”
“I didn’t have that, but life after hockey can be rewarding if you find something that you are passionate about, lucky for me, I did.”