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Getting to know: Matt Marquardt

Genting Casino Coventry Blaze's latest recruit, Matt Marquardt was born to parents Paul and Rachelle on 19th July 1987 in North Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Two years later, he was to be joined by a brother, Cory and the two were to grow up playing street and inline hockey together.

Cory at 18 and Matt 20, iced together briefly at Major Junior level for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), but whilst the older brother pursued a career in the family’s beloved game, the other was to move in a very different but equally successful direction.

Cory Marquardt, now 27, is a well-known ‘Country-Rock’ singer and performer, recently signing a world-wide recording agreement with renowned Advanced Alternative Media producer, Kevin Churko. His album debuted at number 1 in its first week on iTunes for Canadian country albums, and was number 3 for all iTunes country albums week one of release. (Follow him on Twitter @corymarquardt or visit his website corymarquardt.com).

 

 

Matt meanwhile, a keen guitarist himself, stuck at it on the ice. A perfect example of what perseverance, hard work and determination can do for an individual, unlike most high-end talented players, the new Blaze forward never really had a sniff of 'AAA' hockey growing up, being passed over several times. A brief call-up to the North Bay Trappers before being cut nearly ended the youngster’s hockey career all together.

“When I was cut by the Trappers, it crushed me! I worked my butt off. I quit hockey, until my Dad decided to come on and coach my Midget ‘AA’ team, so I decided to return and play.”

Upon graduation from West Ferris Minor Hockey, Matt took his talents to Huntsville as a rookie invitee. After impressing in camp, he was offered a return to main camp with the Huntsville Wildcats (Now, Huntville Otters). However, the Huntsville club folded but the CJHL Brockville Braves decided to give the local product a chance to prove himself.

That he did, spending two seasons with the Braves, earning several honours including; Rookie of the Year, MVP in the Rookie All-Star game, 1st Team All-Rookie and beating now Philadelphia Flyer Claude Giroux for the rookie scoring title. One glance at the several accolades, was enough to see a talented power forward on the verge of moving to the next level.

After the Rookie-All Star game in 2004/05, Matt soon began to receive several offers from NCAA Division 1 schools, but instead elected to go the Major Junior route. Though Marquardt was courted by several well respected OHL teams, including the Kitchener Rangers, the likeable teenager chose the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats to carry on his playing time.

Along with a great organisation, committed to developing student athletes, came a great coach and mentor; Ted Nolan, who went on to coach the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Team Latvia. Whilst Marquardt had undoubtedly shown his offensive capabilities prior to making the jump into Major Junior hockey, the Wildcat's coach showed the young forward a different way to play hockey. One that he would value later in life as he made his way into the much coveted American Hockey League.

“He (Nolan) taught me how to play my game as a role player, to dig pucks out down-low and contribute offensively where I could, he really helped me,” said Marquardt.

Scoring 16 goals in his rookie season (2005/06) with the Wildcat's, the talented winger was able to win his first significant championship, the QMJHL's President's Cup.

Marquardt (nicknamed “Mags”) and his teammates were to move on to be finalists at the Memorial Cup (losing out to Québec 6-2 in the championship game), a tournament that was hosted in Moncton with the local product showing his continued ability to be productive in the biggest of moments, scoring 8 points in 20 games including a game winner.

 

 

Following up the championship campaign, “Mags” was able to collect back to back 40+ goal seasons with both the Wildcats, where he was also nominated assistant captain, and Baie Comeau Drakkar respectively.

Proving to be an offensive contributor in the QMJHL, Marquardt was spotted by talent scouts in 2006 and drafted by the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets in the 7th round, 194th overall.

Reported by hockeysfuture.com as “a mammoth of a player with NHL size,” Marquardt’s well-rounded game was recognised by the site at an early age. “He's a relentless and punishing hitter with the ability to change the momentum of the game with his checks. However, he also possesses surprising soft hands and an accurate shot.”

His first professional assignment was to be with the Providence Bruins after he was traded by the Blue Jackets to the Boston Bruins.

“I learnt how to conduct myself as a pro. Also, you learn how guys bring it to the table every night,” reminisces Marquardt. “I was like a sponge taking everything in that both my teammates and coaches showed me.”

Later again traded between NHL teams, this time from Boston to Edmonton Oilers, in exchange for former Nottingham Panthers defenceman Cody Wild, whilst the latest Blaze capture never quite made it to the NHL level, he does bring to Coventry a total of 281 games in the highly regarded American Hockey League (AHL), where he posted 28 goals, 41 assists for 69 points with the Providence Bruins, Springfield Falcons, Oklahoma City Barons and Charlotte Checkers.

“A big part of being pro is knowing the role you have to play, Ted Nolan taught me that at a young age. I knew what mine was in the AHL and I understood what I had to do. I played fourth-line most of the time and tried to create some energy and use my size to create room for my line-mates. I stayed positive and tried to be a good teammate. I think that's a reason I stuck around in the AHL and it isn't an easy league to stick around in.”

At ECHL level, which is more comparable to the Elite League where Marquardt will play next season, he has proven time and time again that he too can more than handle an offensive role and the pressure that entails, putting up 72 goals, 89 assists for 161 points in 244 ECHL regular season games. He’s also stood out to be a strong playoff performer, scoring 17 goals, 21 assists, 38 points in 51 post-season games, 18 of which came (6 goals, 12 assists) came in the 2011/12 campaign as he led Florida Everblades to the Kelly Cup. The run included three-game-winning goals as he finished second for playoff scoring.

 

 

The Toronto Maple Leafs fan, who names Wendel Clark his favourite player growing up also brings to Coventry a number of years’ leadership experience having been an associate captain on numerous clubs, including being given the “C” at the Florida Everblades last season.

“He’s been one of leaders since we won the Kelly Cup championship in 2012,” said Greg Poss, Head Coach of the Everblades last season. “He’s been there, and he knows what it takes. He has a high level of passion for the game, and he displays that in the way he goes about his business.”

“I’m a vocal leader,” said Marquardt. “I will do whatever it takes to win and I think people respect that. Along with leadership, I will bring to Coventry a mix of size and skill. I can play all situations, I like to play a physical game, create time and space for my teammates. I go hard to the net, shoot the puck a lot and love to score.”

A fan of the film Slapshot, the move to the Midlands won’t be Marquardt’s first experience in Europe, having iced for ESV Kaufbeuren in Germany during 2014/15, where he posted 20 points in 37 DEL2 games before moving back to Florida.

“I'm excited to come back to Europe,” said Matt. “The first time did not go as planned. I loved the German hockey, the fans and the culture, unfortunately circumstances over the course of the season and the direction of the club, I felt it was best to return to home to the Everblades.”

Deciding to leave the club he has played 230 times for clearly wasn’t an easy decision for the North Bay native, however it’s a decision which he says is in his best interests.

“It’s extremely tough to leave Florida. It’s one of the hardest hockey decisions I've ever made. It's bittersweet, I was a member of the only Championship there. I grew as a player and a person in South West Florida, it has been my home away from home. I was always so proud to be an Everblade. It was a privilege to play there and an honor to be captain. From top to bottom the Florida Everblades are a first class organisation and I want to thank the club and the amazing fans for the constant support. That said, I am very excited to join the Coventry Blaze, the Elite League has come so far in a short period of time. I’ve heard great things and at this point in my life education is something I hold in high regard, the opportunity to play professionally and further my education is something I'm excited about.”

Marquardt will study for a Master’s degree at Coventry University, and says he is also looking forward to playing an important part in building fan relations and working in the community.

“I remember how much it meant to have our local players come to our school or to play street hockey with us. Something I fondly remember in my childhood was just looking up to these guys and I remember how happy me and my buddies were when we got to spend time with the hockey players.”

Marquardt, who was named the AHL Charlotte Checkers Man of the Year (2013/14) for his outstanding service to the community continues, “I've had some things happen to me in my life that help me realize I'm lucky to do what I do for a living. It makes you want to get involved and help out when you can. I'm really blessed to be healthy and able to do what I do."

 

 

One of Marquardt’s biggest impacts that season was leading a fundraiser for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which funds research for childhood cancer. Sporting a 'hockey flow' previous, Matt decided to shave it off in support of the cause.

"It was awesome for the people in Charlotte to get behind us," Marquardt said. "We put the word out on Facebook and a lot of people from North Bay and all over helped out. For everyone to show that kind of support, and with all the money going to childhood cancer research, that's something I really took pride in.”

Elle Bunn, the team's director of community relations commented, “Matt did everything that can be asked of a player and we ended up raising $91,000!"

In addition to school visits promoting reading and active living, Marquardt was one of the regulars in the Chubby's Buddies program (Chubby is the Checkers' mascot), which pairs a Special Olympian with a player for the entire season. After losing his three-year-old bulldog, Wendel, to a rare illness he also set about taking part in the Project HALO initiative in support of an animal shelter in Charlotte.

"He was just wonderful with everyone," re-calls Bunn. "He's just that type of guy. In any situation he's in, people always remember him. His involvement and willingness is huge. It made the events that much more significant when we had players that people in the community could identify with and Matt is great that way. I think he really enjoyed giving back, especially getting involved with kids."

Blaze Director of hockey, James Pease is often quoted as saying the club look to sign “good people first and foremost,” and Marquardt certainly fits that bill.

“I always take pride in is being a good teammate,” Matt said. “I’d rather be known as a good teammate than a good player.”

Crediting a strong upbringing from his parents, the 28-year-old continues, “Your hockey team is your family. I’m a very family-oriented person, and I try to bring that to the locker room. That’s how you get the most out of your teammates. I won a championship in Florida, and I know how much team camaraderie means. That’s the biggest reason we won (in 2012). We were all brothers; we were a close-knit group, and we did everything for each other. That’s the culture you need to have. People who refuse to lose.”

One of those people in the Everblades dressing room was Sheffield Steelers’ forward Mathieu Roy who Marquardt was to later follow in the role of captain.

“Mathieu is one of my closest friends,” said Matt. “We were roommates and we won that championship together, I'm very proud of him and his success in the U.K. He speaks very highly of the league, and with my desire to complete my studies he said it would be great for me.”

Marquardt also spent significant time playing alongside a former Blaze favourite and 2015 playoff champion, Ryan O’Marra whilst in the AHL with Oklahoma City Barons and says he’ll be glad to now team up with former opponents from his days in the ECHL.

“Ryan is also a great friend of mine who has a very good resume and it says a lot about the Blaze organisation for him to decide to finish his great career there. Having played against Brian Stewart and Jordan Pietrus and knowing how little fun that is, I'm happy to be on the other side of things and join them this season.”

Article: Craig Summerton (@block15blaze)

Quotes from Matt Marquardt and taken from the following articles:

Joey Butkevich. Marquardt patiently waiting for his chance (July 1st 2010) for Bay Today

Chris Dawson. Marquardt brothers re-unite (January 11th 2008) for Bay Today

Emily Haws. (Cory) Marquadt taking Canadian Country by Storm (July 12th 2015) for the Nugget

Ken Pagan. Marquardt approaching 400 games as pro (April 10th 2014) for the Nugget

Ken Pagan. Marquardt 'blessed' to 'do what I do' (April 10th 2014) for the Nugget

Ryan Toohey. Matt Marquardt eager to step into captain's role with Florida Everblades (October 14th 2015) for the Naples Daily News