Haliburton hockey star Duchene comes home 0
Former Red Hawk and current Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene might have a bone to pick with author Tom Wolfe.
Wolfe once wrote a book dedicated to the permanently disenfranchised, entitled, You Can't Go Home Again.
Matt, the number three pick in last year's NHL entry draft, disagrees - vehemently.
Like a lot of NHL players, Matt's on an extended hiatus from Feb. 15 to March 1, due to a scheduling moratorium engendered by the Olympics.
While a lot of players will be headed south for sun and sand, young Matt, who turned 19 a few weeks back, is opting for the sometimes sunny, if slightly more frigid, reaches of his home here in Haliburton.
Take that, Mr. Wolfe.
Turns out that's really good news for his former team, the Hal High Red Hawks. Matt will be using his time to do a little skating at his old haunt, the Dysart et al arena, and while he's here, he'll also find some time to indulge in some Hal High hockey scrimmages.
And then, he'll be hittin' the road with the Hawks for a game versus I.E. Weldon in Lindsay on February 17.
Hal High principal Gary Brohman, who coaches the Hawks along with head knock Ron Yake, says that the players are all very excited about skating with Matt, who will be arriving here in Haliburton on Feb. 15 and staying until Feb. 23. Matt's mother Chris, a guidance counsellor at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, confirms that Matt will be here for nine days and she just chuckles about how excited Matt is to be returning home. "He's going to skate with the team on the Tuesday [Feb. 16]," says Chris. "And then he'll be travelling with the team to Lindsay ... he's really looking forward to it." Brohman said that he and Yake were equally pumped about having Matt back in the fold. "He's coming to Lindsay, and we discussed things, and we decided that we might even let him open and close the gate during line changes," quipped Brohman.
Chris says that Matt will also be conducting some meet-and-greets and autograph sessions with local minor hockey associations during his nine-day stay. Dean Chaulk, the head of minor hockey here in Haliburton says that Duchene has already booked three separate autograph sessions with minor hockey teams in Haliburton, Minden and Wilberforce.
On Tuesday evening (Feb. 16) Matt will be at the Dysart arena from 6 to 8 p.m. On Thursday evening he'll make an appearance at the S.G. Nesbitt Arena from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Feb. 21 he'll be available at the Lloyd Watson Centre in Wilberforce between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.
At all of those meet and greet venues, Chaulk says that Matt will be available for photos, autographs and sweater signings. One thing both Vince Duchene and Chaulk wanted to impress upon the general public was that all these events would be available free of charge. Glen Sharpley, owner of Source for Sports, told Chaulk that he will have sweaters, hats and memorabilia available at the events.
The events are all free of charge, says Chaulk, but they come with a poignant proviso: there will be a donation jar available, and visitors will be able to give whatever they can to the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto in memory of young Dawson Hamilton, who lost his battle with chronic myeloid leukemia on Jan. 10, just 13 days before his 10th birthday.
A percentage of Source for Sports sales will also be directed to the Sick Kids Hospital, a place where Dawson was able to find considerable and achingly kind respite from the many storms that dominated his life from the age of five.
Matt was in attendance at Dawson's funeral and he was also there for young Dawson during numerous fundraisers and sporting events. Many times Dawson was in attendance to watch Matt when he toiled splendidly with the OHL's Brampton Battalion.
Dawson was also there for Matt's professional debut in Toronto when the Avs went up against the Leafs back in November.
His death hit Matt like a hammer. So Chaulk says that Matt stressed to his dad that it's very important that people know that there will be a special spot at the autograph venues to give to Toronto Sick Kids.
So, come out and see Matt, but bring your hearts - and your wallet - to the sessions. Remember Dawson, and especially all those other young kids and survivors still waiting for that cure.
In a recent "from the mailbag section" of the Avs website, Matt says: "I'm going to head home and spend some time in my hometown. I think I'm going to practice with our high school team there and maybe go on a road game or two with them and possibly coach them on the bench."
Yake says that his team is excited about the prospect of being on the ice with the young phenom.
"Yeah, he's coming back and one of the first things he said to his dad was that he wanted to get out with the high school guys and go for a practice," says Yake. "And he's also going to go on the road trip ... he wants to jump on that school bus again." Yake says that none of this current crop of players were with the Hawks when Matt played three years ago.
"There's a few guys on the team that know Matt personally," says Yake. "Of course they all know of him, but when Matt played, none of these guys were on the team. But I know they're excited about playing with him, and having an opportunity to be involved, seeing him, and talking to him about his experiences and successes."
And that said, you may direct your scathing and literate reprisals toward Tom Wolfe c/o www.tomwolfe.com.