MATT SUDERMAN 1983-2016

It’s never easy to lose someone.

It’s even harder to lose someone close unexpectedly. You’re not prepared for the emotional toll that follows the days, months and even years after one’s death. But a death is much more then mourning. It becomes a time to reflect and celebrate a life once lived to its fullest.

When the unexpected news of Matt Suderman’s passing arrived on my plate this past weekend, I was stunned as many of you were. That news is still bothering me which is only natural. When I started writing, Matt was one of first players I became good friends with. While I only caught the end of his career, I could tell that he was a special guy; especially by the way people spoke about him.

At 6’3 and 235 pounds, Suderman was a giant, albeit a very friendly one that most can testify too. A big boy coming out of the prairies with a solid junior career with the Saskatoon Blades under his belt, Suds was never known for his goal scoring prowess or point totals. No, he was that big body you wanted in front of the net, to block shots and to know you’re safe on the ice whenever he was around. Everyone needed a guy like him in the locker room.

Being a likable character and knowing his role on the ice lead to being a very late draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 7th round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Yes, that may be a late round pick but being drafted is being drafted and it’s a fantastic accomplishment. Sudsy played his entire career bouncing around the minors. That’s not unusual for most. But being able to get paid to play a game you love can sometimes be a reminder to one self that you’re one of the lucky few.

matt_sudermanSuderman was a fan favourite almost everywhere he went. Whether he was dropping the gloves against Mario Joly and Erick Lizon with the Arizona Sundogs, blocking shots for the Dundee Stars or taking the lead with the Hull Stingrays, Suderman was a man who commanded respect. And that respect was given to him a million times over.  In Hull we saw him fight for what was right and for what he believed in.

Matt Suderman was also diabetic.

I find this must be mentioned for all of young athletes out there struggling with the terrible disease or those who have just been diagnosed and thinking they have give up the sports they love. While there famous hockey stars that played and continue to play through it (Bobby Clarke and Max Domi come to mind), it’s important to know that even the tough guys and guys who you have more in common with then you think you know, also have to fight through something. Sudsy never let the illness define him. That’s one of the main reasons he’ll always be a close friend to me.

Yes, we must mourn our loss. Another great human being has left this Earth way too young. But let’s honour and celebrate our friend’s life and career with laughter, smiles and fond memories.

I leave with you a message I received one morning from Sudsy.

“Ashley, I swear to god if you use the words “semi-pro” again, I’ll slap you in the arm. Not the face, but the arm. Stings more.” 

I haven’t used that word since.

#RIPSudsy. We’ll miss you.

 

You’re either a hockey guy, or you’re not

Kurtis Dulle. (Photo: Art Foster.)
Kurtis Dulle. (Photo: Art Foster.)

Last week a couple of articles crossed my path that needless to say left me torn and a little bit speechless to say the least. Both well written articles were by former pro player and Hull Stingray, Kurtis Dulle on his newly tell-all blog. The first, entitled “What I miss about pro hockey” ran a list of things that are no brainers to people who have played some aspect of professional sport; not necessarily hockey. I enjoyed every minute of that piece as I missed most of the things he wrote but in relation to me with fastball. However the second article, ticked me right off.

Naturally his follow up article was “What I DON’T miss about pro hockey”. Fair enough, there’s always going to be things that pop up that you don’t like but the things he listed were not what I expected coming from a guy whose job is professional hockey. Without going into too much detail – actually, you know what? Go read it then come back. I’ll wait. “What I don’t miss about pro hockey” by Kurtis Dulle.

Okay, hold up.

Your full time job is being a professional hockey player. You can’t tell me that you didn’t know all of these were going to happen. Granted, I can see how sharing a bus with 15 or so others guys on an 18 hour drive could get monotonous but that’s part of the territory. This isn’t the NHL; pro hockey isn’t glamorous.

Don’t miss having to wear a suit to and from the rink; don’t miss the promotional sides of the job handing out flyers to fans or scheduled player appearances. Don’t miss having weekends off (even though most of the week is), don’t miss the smell of the gloves, don’t miss cooking pre-game meals – Jesus, doesn’t anybody have that old school passion anymore?

Actually, I know one guy who does.

Hughes in Scotland. (Photo: Derek Black.)
Hughes in Scotland. (Photo: Derek Black.)

Current Brampton Beast head coach, Brent Hughes, had his hockey career cut short prematurely by the untimely passing of his father. After honouring his Dad’s wishes by playing a final game in Dundee, Scotland, Hughes dropped the contract he was under for next season and returned home to be closer to family. A bittersweet decision but one that had to be made. One that he didn’t see coming.

Hughes didn’t get to control the end of his career. He never got that last planned game; that final goal; that last wave to the crowd where he no doubt would have been named first star. No, he came back to Canada with uncertainty of where to turn and a sadness of his career being over. It might have been over but the passion never left.

Jumping into the coaching aspect, Hughes made his way behind the bench in the ECHL. That passion sees him leave for Brampton’s Powerade Centre at 5am, not just to beat the traffic, but to lace up his skates, get out onto the ice and shoot the puck around. By himself. Alone. “Everything that Dulle wrote that he doesn’t miss,” Hughes said. “Is exactly what I miss every single day.”

Hughes taking the time to help out at a hockey camp in Scotland.
Hughes taking the time to help out at a hockey camp in Scotland.

Hughes eats, breathes and sleeps hockey. “I miss those 18 hour bus rides. I miss the aches and pains.” Not only that, he knows the benefits of professional hockey out weigh the cons of being away from family, friends and rearranging your life in a new country. “You may not break the bank playing hockey, but the connections the sport gives you is second to none.” He lays emphasis on those player appearances and the need to suit up that Dulle listed down as a “don’t miss”. “You have to realize this is your job. Both of those things are extremely important. What’s not to like about talking with fans?!”

In the end the game has obviously changed, even in the last ten years or so. I’m not sure if it’s a more “entitled” aspect that players seem to grasp but the old school vibe is starting to fade. Hughes may be another part of a dying breed in hockey, who knows. One thing’s for certain though.

You’re either a hockey guy, or you’re not.

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Brampton Beast, the Central League and Matt Suderman

BramptonBeastFor a first year team, the Brampton Beast are proving themselves to be more than just a push over. Not that they intended to be but before today’s game against the Tulsa Oilers, they sit a game above .500 and 6th in the 10 team league. That’s a pretty healthy position to be in as we come to mid-season’s Christmas break.

It’s a good learning year and I expect them to jump a little higher in the standings come season’s end. I suspect them to end up in the top five which will pay dividends for next year as the Central League is expected to acquire two new expansion teams and up their squads to 12. No cities have been named or areas of interest have been announced but I would expect another Canadian team as to play rivalry for the Beast. Central league is difficult to pin point though as they have franchises in the most oddest places but they make it work.

Although a circle of controversy has followed him in his Elite league past, Matt Suderman has decided to lace the skates right back up with the Beast at home in Canada. After sending the first half of the season with the Hull Stingrays in England, Suderman left with a bad taste in his mouth from the league’s officiating and the fans. While I can’t comment on the officiating as I haven’t seen enough games (although what I have seen, it’s terrible. However, it’s been most Coventry Blaze games), I can comment on the accusations of the fans.

I’ve seen it in plenty of leagues. Some fans think it’s their god given right to antagonize the players. While that’s okay in some respects to haggle the opposing team (and there’s a fine line to be crossed their as well), when it comes to the home team, they think that they work for them. They feel entitled to harass the individuals who entertain them night in and night out. Of course, that comes with the territory I suppose but Suderman’s quote of “The fans think that they know hockey, but they don’t.”, is true to many teams and leagues.

The only difference here is that Suderman is just expressing himself out in the public eye as I’m sure many other players would love to do. While that might be showing a black spot on the organization and league, it’s nothing new or shocking and people need to put on their big boy panties and suck it up. Keyboard warriors indeed.

4e304eb2689ce247a72a3b848c0e614fThat being said, Suderman is going to make a huge impact for the Beast. It’s not his first rodeo in the league. He won the Ray Miron (shoutout Cornwall), President’s Cup back in 2008 with the Arizona Sundogs so he knows the teams and league well. His big 6’3 frame will do wonders guarding the blueline alongside the other giants of Michael Couch and Andrew Darrigo.

The Beast take on the Oilers today at 2pm eastern before they resume after the Christmas break with a set with the Quad City Mallards.

Brampton Beast set for opening night

BramptonBeastFor the first time in the league’s history, the Central Hockey League are welcoming in a team from north of the border. The Brampton Beast will finally get their inaugural season underway this Friday when the Arizona Sundogs invade the Powerade Centre.

 

Brampton has picked up quite a core for forwards including former Belfast Giant, Andrew Fournier and Cardiff Devils/Sheffield Steelers alumni Tylor Michel. Both players must be thrilled to be back in front of a home country crowd. Veteran Rob Collins who spent a few years in the New York Islanders system will definitely bring the knowledge and leadership needed into the locker room for this new-found team. Collins has spent the past 8 season in the German Elite League. Matt Caruana who spent some time with the Toronto Marlies is another welcoming addition.

On defence, Brampton brings the power with CHL veterans, Jamie VanderVeeken, Michael Couch and Erik Spady. Rounding out the defence is Andrew Darrigo, Mike MacIntyre and former Alaska Ace Steve Ward.

Back between the pipes is Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan native Kristofer Westblom. Westblom had a great WHL career Kelowna Rockets before shipping off to Acadia University out east. He played 37 games last season with the Forth Worth Brahmas with a goals against average of 2.07 and save percentage of 0.907.

Brampton is also affiliated with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL. They will be a helpful addition to the Tampa Bay system in molding the right kind of players. The Beast are set to round-up their training camp and get ready for Friday night’s opening game. All fans will receive thundersticks to cheer on the Beast! Puck drops at 7:30pm.

Brampton Beast’s inaugural roster takes shape; add 4 more players

BramptonBeastAs the season inches closer for the Central Hockey League’s first Canadian franchise, the Brampton Beast brass are quickly shaping their roster. Last week they added  2 defencemen in the name of Eric Spady and Andrew Darrigo. Also signed on for the squad is right winger Mitchell Good and breakout goaltending sensation, Kris Westblom.

Westblom will be heading into his third CHL season with the Beast after spending an amazing season with the Fort Worth Brahmas. The 26 year old is a WHL Kelowna Rockets alumni who took them to the Memorial Cup back in 2005. In the same year he was drafted in the 3rd round by the Minnesota Wild.

Keeping an eye on the blue line is Westblom’s Brahmas teammate, Erik Spady. Spady spent four years with Northern Michigan University in the NCAA before turning pro. Last season saw him making a one game debut with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. The 24 year old B.C. native went undrafted.

Along with Spady is Andrew Darrigo. Darrigo is no stranger to the GTA area having played junior in the OJHL. The Oakville, Ontario native will begin his first CHL season with the Beast.

Right winger Mitchell Good is coming off an impressive year with the Pensecola Ice Flyers having won the 2013 SPHL championship. Before turning pro, Good suited up for Wilfred Laurier University. This will also be Good’s first CHL season.

The Brampton Beast are excited to usher in this historical first season. First game is October 18th when the Arizona Sun Dogs come to town. Puck drop is 7:30

Brampton Beast announce AHL and NHL affiliates

BramptonBeastThe Brampton Beast are the newest addition to the Central Hockey League and today was monumental in the team’s newly constructed history. The city of Brampton is now affiliated with an American Hockey League and National Hockey League team.

The Beast announced that they signed a one year contract and will be the feeder team to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL and the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman expressed his excitement in partnering with the Brampton Beast and knows the talent that will be developed will be extraordinary. A strong developmental system in place is the key to success.

The Central Hockey League is venturing into Canada for the first time this year. The city of Brampton is excited for the opportunity to showcase their hockey talent to one of the best leagues in North America. The Beast are now the fourth CHL team to be associated with an NHL team. The Allen American are affiliated with the Dallas Stars, the Arizona Sundogs are affiliated with the Phoenix Coyotes, and the Denver Cutthroats are with the Colorado Avalanche.

(Photo: bramptonbeast.com)
(Photo: bramptonbeast.com)

After Brampton’s OHL team, the Battalion took leave to North Bay earlier this year, the Powerade Centre was left empty. The Beast are looking to fill that arena with passionate fans across the GTA. This is another great opportunity for Canadian hockey fans to see the future of the NHL right in front of their very own eyes.

The Brampton Beast started off their inaugural CHL season October 18th where they host the Arizona Sundogs.

Central Hockey League’s newest addition, the Brampton Beast

BramptonBeastAt long last I finally have a Central Hockey League I can call my own and cheer for! Let me introduce to you the newest squad to join the CHL, the Brampton Beast.

The CHL has finally found it’s way into the Canadian market with it’s expansion Beast. After consistently having financial trouble and struggling to put fans in the seats, the city’s OHL team, the Brampton Battalion, jumped shipped and moved to North Bay. Leaving the Powerade Center team less, the former owner of the Kingston Voyageurs and current president of KIMCO Steel in K-town, Gregg Rosen, immediately jumped on board with finding a way to bring a new franchise into Brampton.

Both the city and the CHL immediately gave their stamp of approval and the expansion team was born. Brampton held a name the team event with the two finalists being Bandits and the clear winner, Beast. Their roster is starting to take shape with already announcing 3 signing in the form of 3 Canadians, Brett Smith, Jason Pitton and Calin Wild. Smith was a former alternate captain with the Fort Wayne Komets and brings plenty of experience to the group. Pitton was a former draft pick of the New York Islanders and spent the majority of his career in the AHL.

The Beast are currently holding a guessing game through their Facebook and Twitter pages which allows fans to ask questions to guess who will be their AHL and NHL affiliates. Exciting times for the world of hockey in Brampton as they get a step up from the OHL.