Most of the fans who attended Thursday’s Missouri Mavericks news conference have no reason to further embrace new coach Richard Matvichuk, who was greeted with a standing ovation and big a fond goodbye with a hearty embrace and slap on the back.
But check this out: When he retired following a rock-solid 14-year NHL career that included a 1999 Stanley Cup championship with the Dallas Stars, he returned to his native Canada and became a member of the hometown volunteer fire department.
Yep, you read that right, the volunteer fire department.
Come on now, how cool is that?
“Hockey guys are a different breed,” said Missouri defenseman Dave Pszenyczny, whose presence with the Mavericks resembles that of Matvichuk – a blue-collar guy who plays for the love of the game and not the glory that comes with it. “I’ve talked with Coach a couple of times, and he’s just a guy who loves hockey and you can tell he loves being around the guys. He’s going to be a perfect fit here.”
A perfect fit in the locker room, on the ice – or at the local fire station.
“When I got out of hockey, I was missing something,” Matvichuk said. “It certainly wasn’t the travel, or the things a lot of people associate with being a professional athlete. It was the camaraderie, the feeling of being a part of a team.
“When I got back home, I was talking with a friend and he was part of the volunteer fire department. When we were done talking, he tossed me a pager. He said, ‘When that goes off, get going (to the firehouse). There’s no feeling like being with a group of guys going into a burning house.
“If I hadn’t had the coaching opportunity at Allen (where he was an assistant the past two years for the CHL champion Americans), I’d still be on as a volunteer fireman. I loved it.”
PROUP POP: Father’s Day is this weekend, and I have feel compelled to write a thing or two about my two sons, Zach and Sean.
While at Grain Valley High School they achieved Hall of Fame status – Zach in golf and Sean in basketball – and that type of success has followed them into the work environment.
Zach is part of Sump Coffee, an eclectic little coffee juggernaut in St. Louis that will need to expand its walls – at least purchase a new trophy case – for all the hardware Zach and the staff have won over the last two years.
Zach has criss-crossed across the United States competing in a variety of competitions that have enabled him to meet new friends and clients and show the country why he is the best at what he does.
And speaking of the best, there is no better service writer than Sean, who works six days a week at McCarthy Hyundai in Blue Springs. Unlike Zach, who knew that he wanted to be a part of the coffee industry from his days at Rockhurst University, Sean took a while to find his niche.
And now, he and Zach both get up each day looking forward to going to jobs they love. As a dad, there is no greater reward than having successful sons who love what they do. I told each of them that I never felt like I’ve worked a day in my life, because I treasure my job as a sports writer and columnist at The Examiner. I’m glad they paid attention when I told them to go out and find something they are passionate about.
I count my blessings because I have two wonderful sons and the only wife on the planet – that’s you, Stacy – who would put up with long hours away from home and a paycheck that meets our needs, but does not allow for the luxuries I wish I could give you on a daily basis.
I love you and the boys more than you will ever know. You are my greatest Father’s Day gifts.
But, if you happened to get me a present, don’t take it back ...
Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at 350-6333 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC