Playing Professional Hockey

When some of us in Oklahoma think of hockey, we think of cold ice skating rinks and missing teeth. When Matt Donovan thinks of hockey, he sees his future.

Seventeen-year old Matt learned his love of the puck-chasing sport from his dad Larry, a long-time hockey player who grew up in Boston.

“He started putting me on the ice as soon as I could walk,” Matt said. “It also helped that he has managed an ice rink from the time I was four-years-old.”

The Donovan family moved to Edmond in 1999 where Matt attended Cross Timbers Elementary School, Sequoyah Middle School and Edmond North. During hockey season of his sophomore year, Matt attended Coppell High School in Dallas so he could play on the Dallas Stars AAA team. After the season he transferred back to ENHS.

And all that moving is just the beginning of the sacrifice and commitment Matt and his family make in order to live his frozen dreams. In May, he made a decision to take the next step in what he hopes will be a long career in his sport.

While playing in Dallas, Matt was scouted by several United States Hockey League (USHL) teams. When he started receiving phone calls, he realized he might have a chance at getting drafted by a Tier 1 team.

Matt stayed home from school on the day of the draft. Not only was he chosen by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, but he was also the tenth pick in the first round. He joined his potential teammates in Iowa for tryout camp later that month and was offered a position as a defenseman.

“Several draft picks in the past have not made the team after being drafted, so it’s not really a sure thing to get on the team just because you’re drafted,” he explained.

This past August Matt was chosen to compete as a member of the USA Under 18 Team at the World Championships in Slovakia. The team ended up in fifth place.

"This was a big honor to be selected,” said Matt’s mother, Kathryn. “And to watch him play wearing a USA hockey jersey was amazing!"

Today, Matt attends school in Cedar Rapids and lives with “housing parents.” According to Kathryn, intense levels of commitment require effort for the whole family. Matt’s sister, Katelyn happens to be her little brother’s biggest fan.  His dad, Larry is the coach of the OU Hockey Club team, but on “off” weekends the family attends Matt’s games.

“We try to drive to Cedar Rapids if they have two home games on a Friday and Saturday night,” Kathryn said.

For away games, the team travels to Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin. The players, ages 16-21, travel by bus on trips that are long but, according to Matt, are made easier thanks to the company of teammates who have become friends.

Matt’s parents are extremely proud of their son and all his accomplishments. They joke that they support him with both their love as well as their money.

“It’s not hard to support Matt because he is a pretty perfect child,” Kathryn began. “He makes straight A’s, has never given us problems staying out late or getting into trouble and possesses this huge desire to succeed at hockey.”

Kathryn and Larry said Matt has worked hard to get noticed for his talents. Having come from a town like Edmond, not known as a “hockey hotbed,” Matt had to work that much harder to get recognition from scouts.

Kathryn said letting her son live away from home at the age of sixteen was tough, but Matt’s devotion to his sport won his parents over. “Matt has never once said he didn’t want to practice or play a game. He is totally devoted to hockey and has been since day one. He truly, truly loves it,” she said.

Matt’s future is looking bright. He already has a verbal commitment to play hockey and to attend college at Denver University. If he develops like the coaches think he will, Matt hopes to be playing professionally after he graduates.

As for a hero on the ice, Matt said that honor goes to his dad, although he hopes his playing style resembles that of Nicklas Lidstrom (defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings). Matt said athletes who hope to compete at higher levels have to be willing to face adversity and never settle for just being good at something.

“You must be 110 percent committed to the team,” said Matt. “Other than school, hockey and your team is your one and only.”

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