Dave Matthews has taken the long road to accomplish his hockey dreams. His journey has been unconventional to say the least, but that is what makes it so special and unique.
Matthews first foray into the game and sport was forged in the elements.
Cold Cape Breton winters were the backdrop for his introduction into the game.
“My earliest recollection of playing hockey was on my pond in the backyard, with my father and sister watching by my side, and skating around the public skates at the local arena with my babysitter Margie at the four years old,” explained Matthews.
Sports were part of the Matthews’ family. The lessons learned on the ice, on the floor or on the field were always valued in the Matthews’ household.
“I was lucky enough to have my father introduce me to the game very young whether it be on our pond or in our basement watching games on TV, he’s been by my side since day one and is still by my side to this day,” said Matthews.
“The game felt special to me since the beginning of the journey, but when I hit Atom, I knew I wanted to try and take it as far as I could possibly go. I started to realize that at the rink was where I was meant to be, I should start to take the little things more serious.”
Character and confidence and the value of hard work was always modelled and entrenched deeply in by Matthews’ parents and family. Hockey only reinforced those core values and Dave Matthews identity as a player and person.
“I can’t thank my parents enough for everything they’ve done,” Matthews said.
“All the sacrifices they have made every day and every weekend on the road going to a new rinks just so I could fulfill my hockey dreams. The countless hours on the road, in hotels, at the rink, I could never repay them for what they’ve done for me and my sister,” confessed Matthews.
“Growing up you start to realize all the little things you’re missing out on, whether it be trips, nights out with your friends, and in my case prime hunting season, but it was the price you had to pay if you wanted to get to the next level, and I don’t regret it one bit,” said Matthews.
“My journey to the Q you could say isn’t the most conventional route, but all roads lead to the destination at some point. I played my bantam hockey out of New Glasgow with the Wearwell Bombers having two decent seasons, going into my first-year midget not many people from the CBW Islanders knew who I was.”
At that time especially at beginning of training camp Nick (MacNeil) always got my name wrong, but it wasn’t long before he got it right and I ended up cracking the line-up and producing a strong rookie season.”
After a strong debut Matthews cracked team Nova Scotia for the Gatorade Challenge.
“Going into the draft I didn’t really know what to expect.”
“It turned out to be just not my time to enter the Q discussion and that just pushed me more to get to the next level,” admitted Matthews.
The diminutive gritty forward had one of my best seasons the following year with the Islanders and finally got the call from Moncton Wildcats.
“I got the invite to attend camp, but because pandemic I never got the chance to attend camp and played my first year junior with Pictou in the MHL.
Matthews sustained a bad concussion close to Christmas.
“I never felt the same upon returning and I didn’t received any opportunity to return to the player I was at the start of the year.”
Matthews never gave up and persevered. Matthews attended Moncton’s camp the following year, only to be released and returned to the Jr.A ranks.
Resiliency and persistence that’s been a common denominator throughout Matthews path in the game.
“Later on in that season my time had finally came, it was only for the second half, but I definitely felt I was ready to make the jump to the Q.”
Matthews will never forget skating on QMJHL ice for the first time.
“My first Q game was in my hometown at Center 200.”
“To play my first game against the team I grew up cheering for my pretty surreal,” Matthews said
“All of my family was in attendance and most of my hometown of Louisdale was there as well.”
“Even though it was an away game for us, it felt like a home game, and I was comfortable and confident, I was definitely ready to go.”
Matthews time at the QMJHL level has been very limited, but incredibly special nonetheless.
“My time with the Wildcats has been nothing but the best, I have cherished every time I put on that jersey, and I am lucky enough to keep wearing it as I move forward.”
“When you step on the ice at the Avenir Centre all the lights are on you and the opportunity is yours to grab.”
“Playing in the Q and for the Cats has given me the opportunity to meet some great people along the way like my teammates, coaching staff, and the billet family.”
“It has been a dream come true and its one I’m hoping to continue coming down the stretch,” said Matthews.
Reaching the CHL is extremely difficult, staying there is even tougher. There’s a very fine line when it comes to be a regular player at that level. Matthews understands just how fine that line really is.
“Going into camp this year I was in the best shape I have been in to date, but at the start of camp I started to have knee issues.
“My knees started to act up and unfortunately that sidelined me for the rest of camp and any of the exhibition games.”
“I couldn’t prove I really deserved a roster spot which killed me on the inside,” confessed Matthews.
A return to the Maritime Hockey League seemed like a strong possibility for Matthews.
“Going into my 19 year, I knew where my rights were in Jr.A wasn’t the place where I wanted to spend the start of my season.”
Matthews thought about it a lot, but decided to leave the Jr A ranks in favour of getting some treatment on his closer to home.
There was no question where he wanted to play and that’s at home.
“I knew I was going to be treated well and getting opportunity to play so I decided to join my hometown team in the Strait Pirates.
Playing Jr B hockey is far cry from the bright lights of the QMJHL, but Matthews knew he wanted to keep playing the game he loves as along as he can close to home.
“Even though it’s Jr.B I knew that if I played well and did my job every night I would get my chance with the Wildcats once again.”
The call would eventually came and Matthews was more than ready to prove his worth.
“Being called up to the Wildcats again meant a lot to me.”
“It showed a lot of people that thought I pretty much quit the game that my journey wasn’t finished and that maybe it was just another step into something bigger,” confessed Matthews, who has played very well during his latest foray in the Q.
“Moncton is one of the best organizations in the CHL and having the honor to play there is special.”
Matthews is quick to serve up advice for any young player being told they might be too small to make it to the next level.
“For the young players you have time to grow, you have time to develop your game, and there is many ways to get to the next level, it may not always be a perfect story but it doesn’t matter what others say it’s your journey and you decide how it goes.”
“It doesn’t matter how big you are but how big you play, and it’s the little things that takes you a long way,” said a reflective Matthews.
Matthews unconventional path in the game continues and he wouldn’t want it any other way.
“As for my future, I haven’t thought to far ahead yet, I’m enjoying my time in Moncton now and for the future I will let the cards fall where they may, but hopefully the goal would be to play CIS, and after my schooling if I continue to play to try and play professionally overseas.”
Giving back to the game that has given him so much over the years remains close to Matthews heart.
“In the summer I have my own hockey program for the locals in the Richmond County area to help bring the game more to my hometown. I am looking forward to continuing it this summer and hopefully for many more to come.”
“Hockey has gave me many opportunities in life on and off the ice, I will always try to help others love the game as the game I loved growing up and still love gave so much to me.”
The long road continues for Dave Matthews, not by design, but by necessity.