After 28 games in the 2016-17 KIJHL season, the Columbia Valley Rockies have finally selected a captain in 20-year-old defenceman Peter Matthews.
Arriving partway through the season after spending the last two-plus seasons playing Junior A hockey in the BCHL and Manitoba Junior Hockey League, Matthews has already had a profound impact on the Rockies, recording eight points in 19 games, which leads all defenceman on the team in scoring. For him, the news of being named captain is still setting in.
“It’s really special,” he said. “Just to start here and to go off to Junior A and come back here and get to captain in my final year in what I consider my second home is just something else. I love it.”
Matthews said one of the reasons he decided to become a member of the Rockies in early November was because of his conversation with head coach Wade Dubielewicz focusing on the hope of Matthews becoming a leader on the team.
“He said he wants me to play a leadership role on this team and kind of show the kids and teach them about junior hockey, and he told me straight up that this team isn’t the best team and we might not win a championship, but the prospect of being a leader on this team really helped me come here,” Matthews said.
The possibility of him being named captain came to the forefront several weeks ago when he and Dubielewicz met privately to discuss his role going forward. To his surprise, Dubielewicz inevitably stitched the “C” onto his jersey making him the team’s official leader for the remainder of his final season of junior hockey eligibility.
“I was really hoping for it, too, because it’s a really young team and I wanted to impart as much wisdom as I can on these younger kids and help set this team up for success in the coming years,” he said.
On the ice, Matthews provides the Rockies with a versatile presence that can play both forward and defence, and transitions well as a defenceman who jumps up into the play offensively to make big plays and often deliver thunderous hits. His poise on the ice with the puck is one of the qualities that exemplify the “I lead, you follow” leadership qualities that helped push Dubielewicz’s hand towards Matthews.
“There’s definitely a massive amount of maturity that’s happened,” he said. “At the end of the day, you want a captain that’s willing to put the work in, show the younger guys what it takes and do the right thing and worry about details.”
Dubielewicz said that naming the captain this late into the season is not irregular while pointing out that he would rather name them too late than too early.
“I found in the past that it’s very difficult when you give someone a letter and have to take it away,” he said. “For the most part, there was no clearcut captain there so I probably hesitated and let it drag out a little too long, but it’s something that you want to be sure of when you do, so I think Peter has shown enough over the past month or two and obviously my relationship with him in previous years is that he’s shown through and was doing the right thing in every area, on and off to lead the guys.”
For Matthews, this isn’t the first time he will wear the C for his hockey team after having been named captain for his minor hockey peewee team years ago. In the time since then, while also playing at the higher junior hockey level, he said he’s learned a tremendous amount about what it takes to lead this Rockies team for the remainder of the season.
“It showed me what leaders need to do and how they need to set a good example for the younger kids,” he said. “Wade’s definitely helped point me in a good path of how to do this and he’s been helping me a lot and has been a great influence on a lot of these younger kids, too, so he’s a great coach for that.”