Oct 17, 1990
Drafted: 2nd Round (37th Overall) 2009
Top 10 Finishes in 2009 Combine Fitness Testing:
1st in Upper Body Power 4kg Ball, 9th in Left Hand Grip,
2nd in Vertek Leg Power Avg, 2nd in Vertek Leg Power Avg No Pause,
3rd in Vertek Vertical Jump Pause, 3rd in Vertek Vertical Jump No Pause,
3rd in Vertek Leg Power Peak, 3rd in Vertek Leg Power Peak No Pause
Anaheim calling to the hockey world...
I generally don't like writing Q&A interviews. I like reading them, and I agree that there's something to be said for presenting a fluid conversation in lieu of research plus commentary. As a writer, though, there's something more to be said for conducting a completely disjointed interview, something that even healthy editing can't make presentable, in order to find the best focal point and best quotes for the final piece. That has always been my process if I'm writing a story on someone I interviewed face to face or over the phone.
As such, the detritus of my Matt Clark interviews (one in January and one in April) has enough meat to write four more interviews or one Q&A of outtakes with the Ducks' 2009 2nd Round pick. I opted for the latter:
Quick question up front. I see two different spellings of your name. Obviously, your first name (Mathew) has one 'T', but when you shorten it, do you use two 'T's or one 'T'?*
Uh, short form? Yeah, just two 'T's is fine. Either way, but two 'T's is what I normally go with.
All right. A couple of background questions since there isn't a lot written about you. You were actually born in Colorado, right?
Yeah, Lakewood, Colorado. Actually, no, Wheat Ridge, Colorado. My dad was working in Colorado when I was born. We'd lived there for a few years, but my whole family's from Canada and had spent a majority of their lives in Canada, so my family was looking to move back home. And my dad found a new job back home and new opportunities back home, so we moved up to Canada when I was about four years old, and I've been in Canada ever since.
What does your dad do for a living?
Right now my dad owns a company that sells generators called Total Power.
Did you play any hockey while you were in Colorado?
Well, I had always been watching hockey in Colorado, and I'd always been itching to get my parents to let me play. But you know, there weren't as many opportunities in the US as there are in Canada. So when I moved up to Canada, right away i started playing hockey, started skating around, joined a minor hockey program in Milton when I was about six years old. It was always my dream to play hockey, even when I lived in Colorado, but I didn't get the opportunity to until I was living in Canada.
When you started in Milton, defense?
(laughs) Yeah, I've been a defenseman my whole life. It's kind of funny. When I first made my team, I picked defense and stuck with it ever since.
They say they put the smartest kids on the blueline. Did you feel like one of those players that wants to see the whole chessboard?
Um, when I first made my decision to be a defense, I don't think it resulted from anything like that. It's just that I'd always watched defensemen and wanted to be like those kinds of players, but I definitely think that hockey sense is important for a defenseman. You have to be able to read the ice, read the play and know what the forwards want to do next. I like to take that into consideration when i'm playing.
People always want to know what netminders were thinking on a save and what scorers are thinking on a goal, but walk us through a hit. What are you thinking?
Basically, what I do is when I see the other defenseman with the puck, I try to put myself in his shoes, as to what I would do if I were him. And then I kind of follow the play and look where the forwards are, and I see which forward kind of seems to be more open than any other and kind of read the play and see the defenseman's eyes, where his eyes are looking. And if I see that pass develop, I try to catch [the forward] right when he receives the puck and when he's not expecting me to be there. And I kind of explode into him using my legs and hopefully catch him (laughs) you know, in a clean hit . . . but definitely a hard hit.
You've gotten into a donnybrook or two to back up a hit you've thrown. As a guy who's dropped the gloves before, why do you think fighting is important to the game of hockey?*
I think it's important because it keeps the game honest. You get some guys running out doing some cheap things; they have to man up and defend themselves. And it's also very good for momentum. I think there's definitely a place in the game for it, and i certainly don't mind doing it if the occasion calls.
Have you been following the NHL rule changes on head hits? I know you're coming from the OHL, which is already very player protective, but as a hitter, do you think this affects your game at the next level?
Yeah, I mean, I've been following the NHL rule changes, so I'm aware of the new rules that are coming in and the new appreciation, the suspension, for headhcecks. And I'm 100% ready for that. I try not to hit to the head. You know, I'm aware it's a very dangerous play. So I don't think it will affect my game too much, as I normally don't make those kind of checks.
Are you happy they've kept the clean checks in the game: the frontside hits, the shoulder checks to the chest?
Yeah, those are the kind of hits I love to make. So I'm happy those are still allowed to be made, and I'm happy they're trying to tidy up the rest of the hits. You know, hockey is a game I love to play, and I hate seeing my fellow players go down to injuries. So it's nice that they're trying to clean it up and at the same time keep the game fun and safe.
NHL.com ran a story about how you used a sports psychologist to build your confidence in your Draft year. Is that something that has continued into this year to help you stay mentally strong?*
Last year, I got that done because it was a big year, and I needed to do well. He taught me some things, and helped me along the way, and taught me some life lessons pretty much. I continue to meet with him, but definitely, I feel like I'm a more mature player this year and can handle the ups and downs of the season better than last year-- being my first year last year. Definitely it was a huge help last year, but I continue to meet with him this year as well.
You looked cool as a cucumber covering for Scott Niedermayer on that 2-on-1 in the pre-season. That's a guy you don't get to cover for very often. What was that like?*
You mentioned me playing with a guy that you don't get to cover for him too much, but you gotta remember that that's what your D partner's there for; that's why there's two of them. You gotta bail each other out, and I'm sure he bailed me out numerous times that game. So it was the least I could do. That's my job, and it's what I expect to do.
You've become a pretty dominant defender in the OHL. Obviously, being voted the Best Defensive-Defensemen and Best Body Checker in the OHL Eastern Conference Coaches' Poll is a sign that other teams are very aware of you. Do you get that feeling on the ice?
Yeah, sometimes you notice that. I try not to let it bug me too much. Obviously, I want to play against the best players on every team, and if they're trying to keep them away from me, it's a compliment to me and my abilities. So I appreciate that and at the same time look forward to when I do end up on the ice with their top players. It presents a challenge to me when I'm on the ice with them, and that's what I love.
A few locker room questions. What's the best practical joke you've seen?*
(laughs) Uh, some guys tape stuff on the back or on the front of people's helmets before practice, and that's always pretty funny. You get a kick out of that when they don't notice 'til they're wheeling around in practice and finally they realize everyone's laughing at them. That's always a pretty good one.
Do you have a guilty pleasure, something they tease you about in the locker room?
I guess I do. I'm pretty big into music and definitely into Country music. I have all of Taylor Swift's CD's. I guess that's kind of my guilty pleasure; I love listening to a good Taylor Swift song. I'll actually be going to her concert soon, and I'm prety excited for that.
Do you have a nickname around the team?*
You were in Anaheim for a couple weeks for training camp. What did you think of the city and the organization on your first visit?*
I loved it. You know, it's California. It's great weather, and at the same time, the fans are pretty awesome as well. The coaching staff was very helpful, and I learned a lot from them in the short time i was there. I'm excited to hopefully work my way towards that goal in the near future. Yeah, like I said, I couldn't be happier with where i got drafted to; it's a great organization, great coaching staff, great players and a great city so I'm looking forward to working towards getting there.
And finally, if you signed an NHL contract, what is the first thing you would buy?*
First thing I'm gonna do? Well, definitely save some up for sure-- you never stop doing that --but first thing is get off my parents' payroll.
Thanks for taking the time, Matt.
*asked in January