During his 12 seasons with the Dallas Stars, Richard Matvichuk was a fan favorite for many reasons. First, he was one of those hard nose gritty defensemen that lead the Stars to their first ever Stanley cup. Second, he showed the fans that he was willing to give up the body. In the 733 games that he played for the Stars, he scored 38 goals, assisted on 129 for a total of 171 points. In the summer of 2004 after the lockout ended Matvichuk signed as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils, after spending his first 12 seasons in the NHL with the Minnesota/Dallas organization. During his two seasons with the Devils, his production dropped as he scored one goal and 10 assists for 11 points in 63 games. After his contract was up, Matvichuk was sent down to the Lowell Devils where he played 42 games, accumulated 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists). After that he tried out for the Columbus Blue Jackets before retiring due to back problems.
Now after taking a few years after taking a break from the NHL, Matvichuk is an assistant coach with the Allen Americans of the CHL and minority owner with former Stars teammates Mike Modano, Ed Belfour and Craig Ludwig. BlackoutDallas.com recently sat down with Richard Matvichuk to learn not only about his first NHL game to his transition to becoming an assistant head coach, but also to get to know him a little bit better off the ice as well.
BlackoutDallas: How did it feel to be drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1991 entry draft?
Richard Matvichuk: Oh it was obviously a dream come true. I was sitting in Buffalo and you were sitting there with your parents, your family and when they call your name, it’s kind of a blessing in disguise. You are just so happy to get drafted. It doesn’t matter what team it was but fortunately it was Minnesota.
BD: What do you remember about your first NHL game? Do you still have the puck?
Matvichuk: (grins) I do have the puck. I have the game sheet that had the lineup and you know what it was in St. Louis. It was a blast and something that obviously you will never forget.
BD: What went through your head in the year leading up to the move to Dallas? And what went through your mind when you heard it was Dallas?
Matvichuk: Oh well when we figured that when we were moving from Minnesota half way through the year that we were coming to Dallas we really didn’t know what to expect. But when we first got down here it was nice to be able to go the games and practices in your shorts. You come out and it’s 70 to 80 degrees so it worked out great for us.
BD: All Stars fans want to know, how did it feel to win the Stanley cup in 1999?
Matvichuk: It was an unbelievable experience. You know to be able to look up in the stands and see your family and friends there. It was a big relief after all the work you put in for the nine to ten months out of the year. It was unbelievable.
BD: What did you do with the cup when you had it?
Matvichuk: I brought the cup to my hometown of Fort Saskatchewan, a town of 5,000 people and everyone came and took pictures with it. It was fun.
BD: You grew up in Edmonton Right?
Matvichuk: Just outside of it of Edmonton. Yeah it’s Fort Saskatchewan.
Who was your favorite player growing? Team?
Matvichuk: I think you obviously got to think. I was in the era when the Edmonton Oilers won their 5 Stanley cups in a row so my Oilers were obviously the best to play and you have to look at guys like Wayne Gretzky. My favorite defenseman player was Bobby Orr.
BD: Favorite moment in hockey career besides winning the cup?
Matvichuk: Wow. That is pretty hard to beat. You know obviously winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate dream you know but I have to say before getting drafted and winning the cup is ultimately dream.
BD: Who was your biggest support to your hockey career?
Matvichuk: (grins) my family. My mom, my dad and my sister been my biggest fans and now that I am coaching, just finish playing then my family. Now my wife and three kids are my biggest fans and support.
BD: What is the best advice someone gave you when you wanted to play hockey like a young kid?
Matvichuk: Have fun and can take the X’s and O’s out of the game. As a young kid, you got to have fun.
BD: How difficult was it for you to walk away from the game?
Matvichuk: It wasn’t really difficult. I think the way my body felt with the injuries I went through, it was time to move on and take my knowledge somewhere else. Now I am able and lucky enough to give it back to the guys who are up and coming.
BD: Was it a back injury that made you quit?
Matvichuk: Yeah. I had L5/S1 surgery on my back.
BD: What has the transition been like from your days as an NHL player to being an assistant coach with the Allen Americans of the CHL?
Matvichuk: Well it has been pretty easy. Fortunately for me and Craig Ludwig and we put this thing together and we always been hand and hand from the day I stepped into the National Hockey League. Craig and I have always talked about it and coaching a junior team (Dallas Stars (MM) U-18) last year together that it has been an easy transition.
BD: Are you bringing any of your knowledge to the game as a player to what you are doing right now?
Matvichuk: I hope so. I think I can give to our players to what people gave to me at the same age. Hopefully I can take these guys to the next level.
BD: Being an assistant coach with the Americans, do you see yourself working in the NHL?
Matvichuk: I hope so. I think that’s everyone’s dream to get to the National Hockey League as an assistant coaching role or a defensive coach role or whatever we can do.
BD: Best D-Partner?
Matvichuk: Obviously me and Derian Hatcher. We played together for a long time.
BD: Did you have a favorite teammate?
Matvichuk: Well me and Craig Ludwig (Luds) were probably favorite teammates. We spend so much time together, just a matter of time before all joined together again.
BD: Do you keep any contact with any of your former teammates besides Modano, Belfour and Ludwig?
Matvichuk: Yeah I talk to Hatcher every so often. Brenden Morrow, Darryl Sydor and guys like that.
BD: If you didn’t play hockey or coaching, what would you be doing?
Matvichuk: Not too sure. I was a volunteer fire fighter and up in Canada, when I retired so I would be doing that.
BD: I posted on twitter via the site (@BlackoutDallas) if anyone had any Qs for you and Garrett Clarke, who plays for you asked: “Yeah ask him if he likes me. #thanks”?
Matvichuk: (laughing) I love him. I think he’s a kid that hopefully that I can give my experience to and let him be an upcoming player to where I can get him up to the next level and then hopefully to the NHL. His upside and effort and his enthusiasm is unbelievable. So hopefully we can get him in the right direction.
BD: Who’s the toughest player you ever faced?
Matvichuk: The toughest player I have ever faced. (Looks at Martinson) Steve Martinson. He was a nasty man. He played in the NHL.