I was standing in my bedroom unpacking my clothes after arriving back from getting our asses kicked by Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the 2016 NCAA Division 3 Frozen Four in Lake Placid. While I was pulling out all my laundry, including a long sleeve t-shirt with #23 on it, I suddenly broke down crying. I cried for about five minutes alone in my room for the first time in a long time. I’ve never been so relieved, sad, proud, angry, happy or however you’d like to describe it in my life. The 2015-2016 season for the Geneseo Ice Knights and what hundreds of other people went through is something I’ll think about every single day of my life.
I woke up to a text on the morning of January 17th, 2016 from Dons, my senior captain and housemate, to come to the locker-room ASAP. He lived upstairs with AJ, Hutchy and Lee. I lived downstairs with Solly, Twan and Stahly. Nobody was home upstairs, so us four got in the car and drove down. We walked into the rink and just outside the locker-room we saw our assistant coach Heersey – normally the happiest guy you’d meet in your entire life – yet today he looked like he had seen a ghost. We walked in and looked around, maybe half the guys were there at the moment…
”what the f*** is going on?”, we said
Dons looked up at us,
“Hutchy was killed last night..”
#23 on the Geneseo Ice Knights, Matthew Hutchinson, from North Vancouver, British Columbia was murdered the night before, along with a senior captain on the Women’s Basketball Team, Kelsey. She was a beautiful, hard working girl that was the glue to their basketball team. Her future was bright and it was horribly taken from her.
Just like Kelsey was to hers, Hutchy was a massive part of our team and success. He didn’t get many goals, assists or points, but he was the definition of a “character player.” He brought his hard-hat to the rink every single day. He blocked every shot he could and kept a smile on his face 24/7, no matter what situation we were in. He was the cheerleader on our bench, pumping guys’ tires and trying to keep the mood light. Any coaches dream, a character defensemen. Hutchy was one of the most unselfish human beings you’d ever meet. He was also a volunteer fire fighter on top of being a student-athlete. For those who don’t know what that is, it means you go on with your day and if there’s an emergency, you drop what you’re doing and go to the scene. That’s one of the most unselfish things I’ve ever heard of, a student-athlete as a volunteer fire fighter…. That right there was one memory that stuck with our team and especially with myself. From January 17th on, unselfishness and dedication to something you care about is what took over. It drove us the rest of the season because that’s what drove Hutchy. That kind of trust, communication and love for your teammates, and again, wanting to be unselfish and play for your teammates is a huge part of any team and their success.
A few day’s later at a gathering we had before our first game after Hutchy passed, his dad said a quote which stuck with us for the rest of the season.
“Fight on my men, I am hurt but I am not slain, I’ll lay me down and bleed a while, and then I’ll rise and fight again.“ We sat to think about that quote, took it to heart, and acted on it.
We then went out and won 6-1 at home that night.
We battled for the rest of the regular season, dealing with emotions, injuries and schoolwork. We went 5-1-3.
SUNYAC playoffs came around and we were the 3rd seed, so we had to play on Wednesday to advance to the semi’s on Saturday, then hopefully get to the SUNYAC Finals the following Saturday. We won at home on Wednesday 4-1, went on the road that Saturday and won 6-1, then went on the road again, and won 7-1 in the SUNYAC Final.
I’ll legit never know what winning a Stanley cup feels like, but that feeling the boys and I felt was probably similar.
At the beginning of the playoffs, we didn’t even have to say it; we had the unspoken feeling that we WILL win the championship and will destroy anyone that gets in our way to get Hutchy the ring he brought up all summer before the season.
It’s funny; when you watch all the Stanley Cup Final videos of the winning team’s season recap, they always have a segment on the team’s turning point during the season, where they first face adversity and then triumph. That goes for any Championship winning team in all of hockey and all of sports. Our turning point was pretty shitty, but we took advantage of it, became a family and protected one another. Then, eventually, we won a championship. But the feeling we shared as a team is something not many people get to experience and one of the most exhilarating things I’ll ever be a part of. I was able to go through this with some of the best friends I’ll ever have and will think about every day. When teams come together, they have the most confidence in the world and know nobody is going to stop them. It’s the best feeling in the world. Those teams are the best to play on. When you are all on the same page and play for each other. Those are the teams that will be the hardest to play against, no matter the skill level. Those teams will win games when it counts. I try to tell people, hockey teams and the feelings we experience together are different than any other team in sports… nobody has the feeling and bond that we do, no matter the level of hockey you’re at. Being on a hockey team is a special thing. As Hutchy would say, love each other, stick together, don’t take one day for granted and most importantly, smile and have fun.